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How To Manage A Nonprofit Crisis On Social Media

As powerful as the social web is for disseminating disaster relief information or for spreading grassroots advocacy campaigns, it is also extremely helpful for managing negative publicity.

Nonprofits are not immune to unfavorable attention –  maybe an intern accidentally sends out a random tweet that isn’t related to your nonprofit’s work or your organization finds itself on the wrong side of an Internet meme. Instead of frantically scrambling to come up with a strategy to put an end to the negative attention at the last minute, have a nonprofit crisis on social media game plan ready. Here are three tactics to get you started:

1. Turn the #fail into an opportunity

Do you remember the @RedCross Twitter debacle from a couple of years ago? If you don’t, check out this recap by Matt Stopera on Buzzfeed.

This is the tweet heard around the social media world:

RedCross Accidental Tweet

Here’s the response issued by the @RedCross about the errant tweet:

RedCross Responds

And here’s how Dogfish Brewery got in on the act:

RedCross DogFish

Result: Bad tweet turns into donations!

RedCross Donation

2. Enlist support of partner organizations

Request your employees, partners and supporters to help. This is not to shift attention away from negative publicity, but to provide context to stories. Take a look at what happened when an international news organization ran a story about the Global Fund. The Global Fund’s influential partners provided additional context about the organization’s work on their social networks:

Storify by Lena Wenzhou

3. Use paid advertising

Twitter can be a very effective platform to turn the tide on a bad public relations moment. You can target users by keyword, hashtags, locations or by accounts they follow using Twitter’s paid ad platform,. We encourage using all three targeting parameters to be able to make sure your response is appearing next to negative stories in users’ feeds.

In the past, a nonprofit would be forced to shutter its doors if it received negative publicity from news organizations, because there were limited opportunities to communicate the nonprofit’s perspective to a large audience.  The social web – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other sites – has changed this dynamic. It has turned all organizations into news makers with their own distribution networks. It’s still not a level playing field, but nonprofits have options when it comes to stemming unfavorable publicity. If you want to learn more about managing your social media channels, please feel free to contact us.


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