While COVID-19 was not the first crisis to affect normal life, nor will it be the last, it has been one of the most disruptive in terms of global impact. Schools closed, millions of employees furloughed and elections postponed, as well as many lives tragically lost.
Social distancing increasingly isolated us by restricting visits to family and friends, the concept of connection took on a new meaning with the role of social media and technology critical.
We are able to see the power of social media when these conversations turn into a community of connections between distant individuals reaching out to help others and create meaningful relationships virtually.
As a candidate for local public office, where do you fit into a crisis like this and how can you use social media for good?
Here are five tips to help you navigate a crisis – like COVID-19 – on social media:
1. Assess the situation online
What is the current mood on social media? What are people talking about, how are they reacting and what hashtags are trending? Social media will provide you a real-time snapshot of how things are on the ground. While it can be difficult to postpone campaigns or cancel certain content, carrying on with business as usual, even when well-intentioned, could look tone-deaf.
2. Work out if there is a place for you
Once you have assessed the situation and the state of play on social media, determine what role you and your movement can play, and if your audience wants or needs anything from you.
3. Do NOT turn a crisis into a platform to promote your campaign
Often nearly every aspect of life changes due to a crisis. It might be tempting to find new, creative ways to use social media to promote your campaign while it is abuzz with conversation. However, a word of caution: people can smell opportunistic politicians who are exploiting a crisis from a mile away and won’t be scared to call you out! (Usually on Twitter…) If you have decided that you can’t provide any help, it is better to publish a simple message expressing empathy with the situation. If you are really unsure how to navigate a crisis, stay quiet while you formulate a plan.
4. Communicate with your community
Humans crave connection and you have the opportunity to open yourself up to conversations within your community to forge bonds.. This isn’t a time to solicit votes, but a time to show with words and deeds the care you have for your community.
5. Lead with empathy, not fear
During a crisis people want to know that we’re all in this together. It can help if we are able to show others how we feel. Use shared experiences to make your content and campaigns authentic and relevant. Use this time to serve your community with positive action, not to capitalise on fear and anxiety, even if you see potential for political point scoring.
Have you seen any good examples of politicians navigating the Coronavirus crisis well on social media? Share examples in the comments below.