Social Media -Crisis management 101

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Crisis management is the process by which an organization deals with a major event that threatens to harm the organization, its stakeholders, or the general public. The study of crisis management originated with the large scale industrial and environmental disasters in the 1980. That is how Wikipedia describes this. The pertinent question, that truly begs is, how do you do that when social media is involved?

My last post was about Art Caffe and the online flack they received. The stark reality is, as an organization, everything you do is going to be scrutinized using a magnifying glass, and dissected. Woe to you if you are deemed ‘unworthy’ of public love. Should you find yourself on the receiving end of negative press, or hash-tag war-fare, you need a solid plan.

Wikipedia continues to say, that these three elements are common to a crisis: (a) a threat to the organization, (b) the element of surprise, and (c) a short decision time. They cite a source, Venettewho argues that a “crisis is a process of transformation where the old system can no longer be maintained.” Therefore the fourth defining quality is the need for change. If change is not needed, the event could more accurately be described as a failure or incident.”

Brian Ellis of EVP/Crisis Communications & whatcanbe Lab gives ten rules to follow but for the purpose of my ‘angle, I will only borrow a few that I feel are imperative for this tapestry I’m weaving. 30 years of experience plus witty anecdotes drove the points across. I have quoted his points verbatim, just thought I should share that lest I am accused of plagiarism, a no no.

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Being unprepared is no excuse: He starts by saying, “it has amazed me how many companies are totally unprepared to deal with a real crisis. They say it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a few hours to destroy it. You’re almost guaranteed the latter, if you fail to plan. Being unprepared is no excuse; it’s just a reflection of the importance you place on your reputation.”

That in itself tells you that you have to anticipate a crisis, and plan for it. Is that pessimism? That’s the sound of my head screaming a resounding no. Public relations teach you to predict trends, because trends are cyclic. Once you have identified possible scenarios, have an appropriate Turnaround Strategy, as well as a follow-up and monitoring strategy.

In social media, goofs are very possible. With a twitter app like tweet deck for example, a tweet meant for a personal account could be replicated in all the accounts you are managing. Rather than deny it or delete it, an apology should be issued immediately. Planning in advance helps.

Beware Of The Court Of Public Opinion: Counsel on legal matters is paramount and should help guide your response. The court of public opinion is just as powerful as the court of law. The biggest challenge crisis leaders face is balancing their decisions based on these two courts. Winning in a court of law won’t necessarily restore the public trust you may have lost in the court of public opinion.

Negative publicity on social media especially Twitter is called ‘roasting’. Think of a fire, where you are slowly turned over every so often so that you ‘cook evenly’. Grotesque as that analogy is, that is basically ‘roasting’ entails. They hate will be in copius amounts, memes will be made, your side of the story will not be believed unless you issue a sincere apology. Very swiftly. Oh, please remember to act fast!

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You’ve Got 48 Hours: “The first 48 hours of any crisis are crunch time. If you are not ahead of the crisis by that timeframe, it’s likely it will run you over. The reason many companies fail to manage a crisis properly is because they fail to recognize one simple fact: when something happens, a communications void is created. If you don’t fill it, someone will, and the information they share is often inaccurate or incomplete. Overcoming a negative perception is nearly impossible, thus the reason to get out there as fast as you can and as frequently as you can. It’s impossible to over communicate in a crisis. You can say the wrong thing, but you can never over communicate.”

In basic terms, act and act fast! If there is need for an apology issue it. The ‘problem’ with social media is a wild fire spreads quickly, that extinguishing it is a herculean task if not done when the embers are smoldering. You need to be on your toes, if you can’t hire a social media management firm that will handle that headache for you. Retainers work best in these situations.

Last rule, Every Crisis Is An Opportunity. Smart leaders understand that in the midst of crisis, there is opportunity. Don’t be afraid to seize the moment. Yes, there is risk involved, but that is true with every opportunity.

There you have it, be not surprised if Art Caffe turns this around with corporate social responsibility, or ride this wave nabbing those ‘curious customers’ who want to know what the hullabaloo is all about. News is news whether good or bad, be worried when people are apathetic to your brand. While at it, please engage your followers/page likers, and answer their queries.

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