computer key - Emergency I’ve heard discussion among crisis communicators that social media has negated the need for company website dark pages. Dark pages live behind the public Web presence and are prepopulated with critical information and elements that the media and others would request during a crisis. When activated, the dark page pre-empts the usual existing company Web page.

The argument goes that today’s ability to speak directly to customers and the media through social media during a crisis means that there is no longer a need to create a crisis page. Not so fast.

I agree that a company must communicate with its audiences through social media during a crisis. Social media is an invaluable resource that removes the filter of the media, allowing the organization direct communication with important audiences. In fact social media is now just as important as is communicating with the traditional media during a crisis.

Our direct line to audiences does not change the fundamentals — in fact, a foundation of trusted information, company background, and working contact numbers and emails is the baseline for a communicating in all venues! Here’s why:

1. You’ve established a home for the latest communication. Because you’ve prepared for a crisis situation, with a single call to IT you have unleashed valuable information that will help the company weather the storm.
2. You’re setting the tone. Going about business as usual on the front page of your Web presence says to the audience that you either don’t care, don’t get it or are too overwhelmed to make any changes (which you will be if you have not created a dark page BEFORE a crisis develops). Let them see your responsible actions on the front page.
3. One-stop shop. Latest press statements and releases, company information, bios on key company personnel, PR phone numbers, family phone numbers, links to important outside resources (think hurricane, relief efforts, etc.) and an ongoing blog with regular updates. These are just a few elements of a dark page that will help you communicate with the media and your audience in one concise space.
4. Update in one place. Unlike tweets and posts that will soon be pushed down the social media news feeds, your dark page is customizable and will always contain the latest and greatest information and feature what you want it to feature.

The creation of dark pages should go along with your well-thought-out crisis communication plan. How to activate such a page should be identified step by step with responsible individuals identified and included in your crisis communication flowchart.

Unfortunately, bad things do happen to good people and good companies. Planning today will help you communicate appropriately if that day comes to your company door. A solid foundation from which to begin is the first step forward.

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