If you haven’t dusted off your plan lately, now’s the time.
The rapid evolution of citizen journalism and the collaborative Web has changed the way companies & countries need to watch for looming crises, assess the reaction to crises, and respond.
Citizen journalism, of course, is nothing particularly new, but the speed with which messages can circulate today – through the use of mobile phones, camera phones, Twitter and the Net have changed the dynamics of how a crisis unfolds.
In fact, it now even has the power of getting a momentum on its own and assist in revolutions, such as what happened in Tunisia and now Egypt. Take a look at this article Egypt: The camp that toppled a president and click on the word blogger in the photo.
There are two factors at play when a story hits the Net. The first is the number of people influenced by what the person is writing, either in a mail; a tweet, a web forum or in a blog. The second is the attention paid to the spreading story by the media, which is often compelled to pick up the story and mainstream it, which makes it visible to all those people who don’t have access to the internet.
Many crisis communication plans these days don’t include specific strategies for using the Net and other forms of online communication. Have you considered and can you use the technology to use when there is a social media crisis via the Web? Do you know when and how to respond to a particular stance by a blogger or a nasty tweet? Should you even respond?
Unless you have a strategy in place and know how to use various tools and technologies you will be at a disadvantage.
Here are some questions that you have to consider:
- How often do you monitor to determine your organisation’s name in forums, e-mails, online discussions or even in Messenger? Have you considered using online tools like Google Alerts, Cyber alert and SNS Analytics that can assist you with the process?
- Do you participate in online networks like Linkedin and others? Since social media is about being part of a conversation, the building of trust starts long before the issue of a statement.
- Where do you keep your plan? Hopefully you have a copy on your smartphone, in Dropbox, on the web and at home for real-time access.
- Can you update stakeholder (audience) details in real-time? Do you make use of online address books/contact databases? You may want to consider using Gist or Plaxo for this.
- Can you communicate with your audiences directly? How quickly can you get messages to them using social Media tools like Twitter, e-mail and SMS?
- Have you considered using outside 3rd party experts, social media & crisis communication management experts to assist you with an independent analysis before a crisis hits?
With the emphasis today on speed, any strategic crisis communication response plan should include prioritization of audiences (stakeholders), honesty and transparency (levels of disclosure), concern for victims, and avoidance of speculation and selection of appropriate spokespersons.
But the new focus should take into account the era of the 24-hour news cycle or what David Meerman Scott calls the ‘real-time’. A Company has nanoseconds available today to respond to bad news or rumours.
That’s no joke. That’s for real and if your crisis communication response plans are not based on the ‘real-time ‘ principle it is not worth a tweet.
Don’t wait. Dust off that crisis plan before a crisis finds you.
P.S If you want to rewrite or benchmark your crisis plan, these resources can be of assistance:
- Brand Reputation Management – How to Clean Up and Online Crisis
- The DIY Crisis Manager Toolkit. A Handy resource that includes checklists, templates and a complete guide to writing a plan, as well as guides on how to use Twitter & other tools in a crisis.
- The PR Coach’s Online Crisis Management Tips