Community Managers and Mental Health: Managing Crisis Moments

Khoros Staff

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We are Community Managers (CMs) on the Khoros Strategic Services team. To honor Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share some key learnings and helpful tips for navigating being in the weeds of social media, while also taking care of your mental health.

In this role, we act as the bridge between a brand and the communities they serve. We’re on the frontline of digital connection - serving as the voice of the community through the lens of the customer. Throughout 2020, building connections virtually with communities and customers became more important than ever. From driving engagement during quarantine to protecting communities and providing safe spaces during the BLM movement and the election season, the role of a CM was vital in helping brands and their communities navigate the “new normal”.

In a time when a new crisis seems to pop up every month, or every week for that matter, it can be difficult to take space from social media and the 24-hour news cycle. As part of the role of a community manager, you may find yourself monitoring and hiding extremely sensitive information, imagery, and interactions to protect the community. Through all of this, it’s important to recognize when you need to step away and care of your own mental health. The best way you can support your communities is by supporting yourself in the process.

Here are a few tips that we’ve uncovered to find a balance between our role in social media and self-care:

1. Make a plan
At the onset of a crisis - planning is the best way to be sure you’re prepared for whatever may come next. Though you may have a crisis response plan in place to address the basics, the below steps can help you iterate in real-time so that your team is ready to hit the ground running.

    1. Identify your team. Define a crisis management team within your community management or social media team for this specific moment. These are the people who are going to create and execute the crisis communication plan. Each member needs to be assigned a specific role; from developing a statement, to creating FAQs,  to engaging 1:1 with community members.
    2. Assess the situation. Depending on the crisis, you may consider pausing all outbound messages across publishing and moderation. Gather all necessary stakeholders to get a full understanding of the situation, and use social listening, such as through Khoros Intelligence, to gather a quick overview of how the public is responding on social media and in relation to your brand.
    3. Establish guidelines. Create a moderation plan that details how your brand and your team will engage with the community. Brainstorm every question you can think of and then answer those questions. As your team begins moderation, continue to iterate on this list based on what you’re hearing from the community. This provides an opportunity to take control of the situation, interact with community members proactively, and humanize the brand.

2. Set boundaries and make space for breaks
During a crisis, boundaries across your moderation schedule and areas of responsibility, can help to protect your mental health. They serve to preserve physical and emotional energy, to help stay focused on your personal values and standards, and to identify your limits.

    1. Know your values and communicate them clearly. Understanding your values helps you figure out where you’d like to set boundaries. Start by asking yourself what you need to protect your happiness at work and share it with co-workers and managers. Once you are able to recognize and label your feelings, you’ll be able to speak up when help is needed. 
    2. Draw the line. When boundaries get violated, vocalize it. State the ways that you are seeking to maintain the boundaries you’ve set to ensure you successfully support the organization. Don’t be afraid to say “no,” but consider recommendations on how to ensure the tasks get done to support your team in the process.
    3. Unplug to re-energize. Once your moderation shift or specific crisis responsibilities have wrapped, pause work notifications and avoid checking emails to help you recover from a day of crisis work. If that isn’t enough, sometimes truly unplugging means taking advantage of your paid time off and shutting off work completely to take a mental health day.

3. Lean on your team, your manager and your mentors
90% of employees say they perform better when their company supports their emotional wellness. In times of crisis, proactive communication around your work as well as your mental health is crucial in ensuring you have the support you need. Don’t be scared to ask for help. Things you can do:

    1. Maintain Manager Connection. Increasing the frequency of check-ins with your manager can be linked with better average mental health. The key is having regular manager-to-employee 1-on-1s to create an open and transparent environment, where you can feel safe expressing certain stressors.
    2. Communicate with your project leads. Having an open rapport where you can share your concerns and boundaries with your project leads, maximizes success and helps break down stigma surrounding mental health. Embracing your vulnerability is a sign of strength, and allows you and your team to develop a psychologically safe environment.

Community managers love few things more than the communities we foster and support. The job can be rewarding and educational, but can also be triggering in moments of trauma. It is important to find the proper balance between supporting a brand, a community, and yourself. In prioritizing mental health each and every day, community managers can proactively ensure that work-induced effects on mental health do not become a crisis in and of itself.

In the comments below, let us know ways you prioritize your mental wellness while supporting your brand. 

Keep an eye out for the next installment of our Mental Health series, Managing Mental Health as a Community Manager: Nurturing Connection.

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