Public Relations Tactics

Tag, You’re It: How to Create a Hashtag Crisis Strategy

July 2, 2013

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on June 3 on the Melissa Agnes Crisis Management blog.

The media and the public applauded the Boston Police Department for its use of Twitter following the Boston Marathon bombings. Though their work in keeping people informed was admirable, research shows that a consistent hashtag never emerged or trended among official organizations to organize their content into a traceable stream. This is a big deal. Without consistency, your target audience:

  • Doesn’t know which hashtags to monitor for updates, information and help requests
  • Has a high risk of missing important updates and information that needs to be shared and retweeted
  • May not have a way of following different departments and agencies’ progress (like officials after the bombings)

Having a predetermined hashtag strategy is something that needs to be organized before a crisis — and this goes for companies, organizations and schools, just as it applies to government officials and emergency responders.

Developing a plan

It doesn’t matter whether or not your crisis hashtag strategy includes a predetermined hashtag. What matters is that you develop a hashtag strategy before a crisis strikes. This crisis hashtag strategy should include:

  • An explanation of the role a hashtag will and must play within your crisis communications
  • Guidelines and policies for using the hashtag within your crisis communications
  • A destination for internal and external stakeholders to learn more about the hashtag strategy, including what the hashtag is during any given crisis
  • Instructions for how you would like your audience to use the hashtag

Grouping information

Hashtags provide a way of grouping relevant information for following, finding and sharing on social networks. The easiest way to group all of your communications in a crisis is by using a dedicated hashtag.

This dedicated hashtag:

  • Keeps communications organized. No one following the crisis will miss a tweet or any important news. This makes it easy for your stakeholders to follow and share important information regarding the crisis.
  • Increases efficiency. The proper use of hashtags makes your organization’s life much simpler in a crisis. Once you have determined your strategy, everyone is aware and the appropriate people can use the strategies as soon as possible.
  • Makes monitoring easier. Others know what hashtag to use to make it easier for your team to monitor information, news and inquiries about the crisis from your stakeholders.
  • Helps document post-crisis. Documenting a crisis once it has been resolved is an important end-step within your crisis management. Having all of your organization’s and many stakeholders’ tweets grouped together makes the task of documenting that much easier.

Social media plays an essential role within your crisis management, and within that essential role are different strategies for efficient and effective crisis communications. The use of crisis hashtags is one of the most important of those strategies. 

Is your company or organization prepared?


Melissa Agnes
Melissa Agnes, president of Melissa Agnes Crisis Management, is a specialist in online crisis communications and online reputation management. She writes a daily blog on online crisis management. Find her on Twitter: @melissa_agnes.


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