Crisis Management: Social Media and Your Reputation: Crisis communications
When US Airways flight 1549 crash-landed into the Hudson River in January, a Twitter user sounded the alarm one minute – one minute – after the jet hit. The speed of that social network notification rocked worlds. Mine too. Traditional news media now practically trip over each other to break a big news story first on Twitter, and I use it as a distant early warning network. For example: a significant media mention of a client issue popped up on Twitter. Within eight minutes after the posting I alerted the client and scrambled our team into action.
To make this possible I “follow” the tweets of most major newspapers and TV stations in the state and elsewhere. The free program TweetDeck monitors Twitter (and Facebook) constantly. My computer beeps with every Tweet of breaking news or client mention. Combined with automatic searches available from Twitter, Google and beyond all of us in business have a huge ally badly needed in a world of blindingly fast communication. Furthermore, we who work in crisis and reputation management where speed saves can jump out of the blocks far quicker.
Let me quickly admit I am not exactly on the cutting edge of social media knowledge. Much of what I know I get from others, from experimenting, and from talking to social media mavens like Monty Hagler and Mark Tosczak of RLF Communications.
Let me also add that, for the moment, social media are not yet driving most crises I handle. Social media largely parallel or trail mainstream media. Other than email, the most frequent client use of the Internet for crisis management remains websites. We make the website information central when something goes awry. Running accounts of actions, statements, timelines, and updates constantly inform internal audiences and reporters.
Nevertheless, there are eyebrow-raising indications that social media are accelerating their influence around us and that we must be ready.
1) A couple of local bloggers single-handedly whipped up public opposition to actions by an occasional client. The bloggers’ complaints fed the media and public and helped derail significant company plans.
2) A client anticipating a confrontation has already identified bloggers who are thought-leaders in its industry. The organization will communicate directly with them immediately should a blow-up occur.
3) A global client has been running a blog and Twitter for months. While the information provided has been mildly interesting, the mere presence of the blogs and Twitter account demonstrate that the company’s social media pipeline is primed and ready to be mobilized for the next inevitable crisis or controversy.
4) Clients warily watch social media throw monkey wrenches into the works of other companies and more frequently ask how to protect themselves.
Hagler, Tosczak, and I recommend the following:
- Set up a social media hub capable of spreading your word far beyond traditional media.
- Establish a social media presence and learn to use it.
- Monitor your name mentions on the Internet 24/7.
Then, should trouble strike you’re better prepared to act and communicate both traditionally and via social media to your many audiences.
One giant caveat to the above: millions of people still do NOT have Internet access. Regular communication methods therefore remain mandatory and speed essential.