How to Build a Clear Social Media Crisis Plan: South Staffs Water

While many organisations will be dealing with disruption and confusion, it’s more important now than ever to ensure your social media crisis plan is crystal clear. We look back on the lessons learned in our webinar with South Staffs Water on how they built their crisis strategy on social media!

Why Is Social Media Good for Crisis Communications?

Social media is an accessible channel for both organisations and their audiences. With 100% of digital consumers having at least one social media account, they make organisations more accessible to a broader audience. 

Social media is also cheap to implement. Not only are accounts free to set up, but they are cheaper to deliver customer service on. South Staffs Water say that to handle a customer service enquiry via a tweet costs them 19.5 pence, whereas handling a call costs £2.25; saving them over £2 for each query!

Handling a Crisis Through Social Media

Similarly to any form of crisis communications, having a set of guidelines to follow throughout the crisis helps ensure your team follows a consistent tone, messaging and general feel. 

South Staffs Water have put together a super helpful social media charter that helps their comms team offer consistent, reliable responses. 



Faster responses are directly correlated with higher customer satisfaction scores, with South Staffs Water achieving a 98% customer satisfaction score when their response times were under 15 minutes. With a comms team available on their social media channels 24 hours a day, that’s some good going!

Over & Above 

You could just relay information during a crisis and be done with it. Or, you could go above and beyond for your audience, presenting the information in a fun, engaging and understandable way. Doing this makes you more human, and your audience will be more understanding during the crisis.


Without your audience on social media, what are you there for? Social media allows you to develop authentic connections with your customers, which can be vital to navigating a difficult situation.

Individual & In-Channel 

Although you may be encouraging your customers to contact you via social media, it is still their choice to reach you on this channel. Social media is also an open forum; if a customer asks a question publicly, someone else likely has the same problem. By answering these queries publicly, you reduce handling times for your social media team.

An Effortless Experience 

Making communication effortless for your customers during a crisis is a sure way to keep them happy. By providing updates, you can answer questions before your audience asks them. Using plain language and acting like a real human will make you more relatable and easy to understand, during a time where your audience may be confused or angry.


Instead of just replying to inbound messages to acknowledge that you’ve read it, really listen to what your audience is telling you. Even if you can’t do what they’re asking, providing a personalised message to their enquiry is much better than skimming over it or worse, ignoring it altogether.

A People-Centred Approach to Social Media

Social media is fundamentally a communication channel; people are central to your strategy and can help your organisation through a crisis.

Building relationships with your audience will create brand advocates on your social media channels. These brand advocates may come to your defence against negative comments and answer questions on your behalf, helping to reduce the load on your comms team.

Key Takeaways For Your Social Media Crisis Plan

There’s no better way to grow from a situation than experiencing it first-hand. Once the dust has settled after a crisis, take a moment to reflect on your performance. What did you do well? What lessons can you take with you into the future? 

South Staffs Water continue to improve on their strategy after a crisis, and have learned some important takeaways:

  • Always be updating: Keep posting updates on your social media channels, even if there is no new information. During a crisis, people will be quick to draw their own conclusions so if they don’t hear anything from you, they may think there’s a problem.
  • Use your influencers: In most cases, the influencers in your audience will have more followers than you, so being able to use them to amplify your message is vital. Start to build those relationships before a crisis hits, so you’re not just approaching them when you need something from them.
  • Aim for 100% response rate: No one wants to be ignored, especially during a crisis. Reply to all messages that come through, even to trolls; these present a unique opportunity to turn a negative conversation into a positive one.
  • Train more team members: If you’re planning on offering out-of-hours social media support, it’s not sustainable to have the same small team managing social media. Train extra team members in your specific style and tone of voice so you can hit your targets on social media.
  • Be relatable and authentic: The only way your audience will genuinely connect with you is if they feel that they have something in common with you. Use plain language, and speak to your audience like you’re having a coffee with a friend.
  • Evaluate after every crisis: Each situation will teach you something new that you can learn and reflect on. Use this knowledge to help your crisis plan to evolve and grow.


While no one wants to think about a crisis hitting their organisation, it does happen. Sometimes, as proven by the current situation, it can have nothing to do with you but has a knock-on disruption effect for your customers. Leveraging your social media channels and the communities you build within them can help you navigate a crisis much smoother and faster.

Discover more insights and advice from South Staffs Water by watching the webinar recording!