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Trump tweets about you. How do you respond?

A screenshot of Donald Trump's Twitter page, taken December 9th, 2016.
A screenshot of Donald Trump's Twitter page, taken December 9th, 2016.

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When the leader of the free world speaks, it commands attention.

But when that leader calls you out on Twitter, what do you do?

Donald Trump hasn't taken office, yet, but a few days ago his tweets have targeted Boeing and the leader of the United Steelworkers union.

This may be the future of a Trump presidency, where he uses social media to zero in on specific corporations and people.

"I think it may catch our companies off-guard when he uses that medium, but that's the new reality," says crisis communications expert Alan Caldwell of Cerrell Associates. "It appears that it is his medium of communication, so companies have to prepare for that new world."

Past presidents haven't shied away from calling out organizations in the past, but those times were usually in controlled environments like a press conference. Companies may have even had a chance to meet with the president behind closed doors to argue their case.

At the very least, they might foresee that the president may speak out against them.

But Trump's embrace of Twitter adds in an element of surprise.

"You're not going to have any warning of which way the administration may come at you," says Caldwell. "Companies need to put together a crisis plan that they can implement quickly if they become the target of President-elect Trump's ire on social media"

Caldwell shares some professional advice on what regular people and corporations can both do to respond if they're targeted.

Stay calm

"People tend to go into panic mode," he says. It's the president, after all.

But he reminds people to resist the urge to reflexively respond or to clap back.

"If you get into a situation where you are arguing with the leader of the free world, that may end up hurting you more than helping you," says Caldwell.

Don't ignore the problem. And use a respectful tone

Put your most classy food forward.

"We've got make sure that we protect revenue, shareholders, your reputation," he says. "Let's find a way to respond that's still respectful of the office but continues to protect the brand and reputation of our organization." 

Facts are your friend

In the face of fake news or people playing fast and loose with reality, it's best to always rely on facts and cite your sources.

It makes your position much stronger.

"You can't get into a situation where you're going back-and-forth," says Caldwell. "When you state the facts, always add where the fact is coming from to dispel some of those rumors."

Put a personal face to your response

Caldwell gives Boeing an A for its response to Trump's tweet.

"They were authentic, they made a nod to the taxpayers to show that they cared about the American people, and eventually they came back and had a statement from the CEO," he says.

That last part is very important: sway the American public with a person, not a faceless corporation.

"Normally, you'd have a communicator like myself make a statement, but if the President-elect makes a statement about you, show leadership," says Caldwell. "Companies have to put their CEOs or someone in the suite out there to be the spokesperson for the company."