Julius Duncan's Blog

Brands for a social age

Social – going strategic

The iab hosted an excellent #iabsocial event on June 28th at LBi’s offices at The Old Truman Brewery. Amongst the wide-ranging series of presentations it was the ‘Social Media Strategy’ section that really sparked our interest.

The panel featured speakers from digital, integrated and media agencies, with Dave Coplin from Bing (@dcoplin), and Linked-in’s Sally Keane and Jonathan Bradford completing the bill.

Social media’s diversity was aptly illustrated with case studies ranging across the B2C and B2B sectors.

TMW’s Mark Harrison (@mvharrison) outlined recent Facebook activity undertaken on behalf of Lynx. One interesting takeaway was the need for brand owners to adapt their thinking in social, and get away from the CRM mindset. Harrison said that in the course of his work with Lynx he had come to realise that simply having the objective to use social platforms to drive a number of fans through to the Lynx exclusive community site isn’t sufficient. Instead the priority is to facilitate the peer-to-peer conversation on Facebook through talented ‘social editors’ that become a valuable part of the community, akin to a good host at a party.

From this FMCG fest of girls, ‘Likes’ and the ‘Lynx Effect’ we leapt across the business world to Philips’ challenge to engage B2B audiences for its medical scanning, lighting and town planning products. Jonathan Bradford, the Linked-in account manager behind the work with Philips, made the useful comparison of Linked-in as the ‘heavy end’ of the social engagement spectrum, creating spaces for in-depth discussion and debate, compared to the ‘light’ world of the Facebook ‘Like’.

While different in approach, and target market, the outcomes of both pieces of activity were impressive. For Philips the Linked-in activity has created an active Linked-in Group around lighting with 31,000 members, and healthcare Group with 41,000. These numbers are significant when you consider that there are just 25,000 decision makers globally when it comes to a large healthcare product, like a CAT scanner. Within these groups 60 pct were manager level, and 4,440 discussions have taken place. Perhaps most crucially Philips’ Net Promoter Score within these groups is above 50.

In the case of Lynx , the brand has undertaken focus group research with customers that are fans on Facebook, and those that aren’t. Amongst the fans there is a much higher propensity to buy Lynx products, and up to 3.5 times more value of product is bought by the fan group. Even after discounting the fact that those that fan (‘Like’) the Lynx pages may be brand advocates before joining the community, it’s a compelling argument for brands to engage.

So, interesting work, good results, and particularly in the Philips example, an indication of how the activity supported the wider business, and brand, objectives.

If anyone in the room held onto any doubts about social’s ability to impact wider strategy, they were surely swept away by a superb presentation from Bing’s Head of Search, Dave Coplin @dcoplin.

After channelling Lemmie from Motorhead for a brief moment (!), Dave went on to stress that the search engines’ days of “chasing the algorithm dragon” are past. He said “search and social are now intimately linked”, which is driving Bing’s priority to bring the social web, its networks, and trusted human relationships to bear on search results. “People want to make human decisions, not algorithm decisions. We are seeing a shift from relevance to trust in search”.

To take advantage of this opportunity Dave recommends that brand owners – “let go of the control of the brand, enable communities, and accept you can no longer ‘build it and they will come’, today your brand online is more of a community bazaar than a cathedral”.

On the day Google + was launched, his words made a powerful impression.

It was a highly informative afternoon, illustrating the growing sense in the industry that social has ‘grown up’ to a point where a strategic approach is a must.

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News, this time it’s personal

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been test-driving Summify. It’s a social media news reader that provides you with a summary of those stories that are most highly read, and shared, by your social network.

So far I’m impressed. There has been a tendency towards Mashable and Techcrunch articles, but it’s also thrown up some neat new stories and sources that I might have missed in the constant ‘flow’ on Tweetdeck.

Coming back from the Easter break on Tuesday I logged onto URL shortening service bit.ly, to see their very similar news app News.me being plugged. Again an application to let your Twitter network, and in News.me’s case other people’s network, help filter and find news that is of greatest relevance to you.

Is this the future of news? I believe it is. Why should we any longer only digest what a sub-editor and section-editor on one of our national newspapers believes we most want to see? The future of news is personal, dynamic, and tailored to each of us, tailored by the power of the semantic web.

This personalisation is happening across multiple platforms. The BBC remains my favoured news gathering source, but I hardly watch news bulletins at scheduled times any longer, and I used to almost daily. Why? Well I’ve likely already seen most of the content on line, stories of interest have been brought to my attention by my social network, and if I do watch a bulletin I’m likely to do so on I-Player or Virgin Plus.

All of these factors add up to a huge challenge for traditional news franchises i.e. the owners of the classic print and broadcast news brands. But hey, we’ve known that for years.

One publisher that keeps itself at the forefront of thinking in this area is The New York Times, through its R&D Lab. The Lab (which developed the News.me application in collaboration with bit.ly) is a JV with the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. Its self proclaimed aim is to, ‘attempt to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age’.

In a fascinating post from the R&D Lab’s Megan Garber she gives an insight into Project Cascade, a new tool the Lab has developed with UCLA professor Mark Hansen ‘to track the life of our stories once they leave the newsroom’s confines and go out into the world’. It’s powerful stuff, attempting to visualize across multiple axes the flow of content online, who moves it, in what way, and what nuances are added as it proliferates.

At the end of the post they insist that from The NYT perspective it ‘won’t necessarily dictate, or even affect editorial decisions’. Rather it could ‘affect the packaging of stories and the way the Times presents them online.’

If you ask me that’s a missed opportunity. If this tool can genuinely mine, and surface, powerful insights into what makes content work well in the online eco-system, then hell yes, base your editorial decisions on it.

If you do there is a greater chance that your content will be ranked and selected to appear in the personalised news vehicles that will increasingly make the ‘editorial decisions’ for individuals. Do that successfully and the NYT might just persuade more people to pay for full access beyond its recently introduced pay-wall.

Taking a step back from the intricacies of the traditional news business’ struggle with the open web, what is at the heart of this, is value.

As a publisher, brand publisher or individual publisher, your ability to create content that has value for your audiences is what will decide your success or failure. Happy creating.

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Was your brand born social?

To misquote the Bard: “Some Brands are born social, some achieve socialness, and some have social thrust upon ‘em”.

Following the launch of our Social Brands 100 report last week, we’ve been thinking that this famous quote has some resonance with our ranked brands.

Born social.

One of the surprise Top Five entries for some commentators is the crowd-sourced mobile operator, giffgaff. This innovative business has been making waves in the mobile space since its launch in November 2009. Conceived from the outset as a social business, where its customers can gain rewards by providing customer service and marketing support, this is one business that was ‘born’ with social principles at its core. Indeed the business model was refined through crowd sourcing the question ‘what would you want from a mobile network run by you?’.

Another interesting example is Innocent Drinks. Interestingly, the fast growing FMCG brand, launched in 1999, pre-dates the explosion of mass social behaviour on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

But, according to Ted Hunt, in charge of digital engagement at Innocent from 2006 to 2010, the company already had social principles at its heart. His job was simply to tell this story through social channels, not to transform the business for social. Evidence that true social engagement is more about behaviour and content, not technology and platforms?

Achieving socialness.

This transformative state is the most common that our ranked brands find themselves in. A good example is the retail bank, First Direct.

Launched as the first ‘telephone bank’ 25 years ago, it’s always been an innovator.  In the last few years the Leeds based company has proved its agility once again as it develops social behaviours, and strategies. It features as the only financial services company in the Social Brands 100 thanks to its social media newsroom, i-Phone app, Little Black Book and Talking Point initiatives.

Other notable ‘achievers’ are the BBC, Ford, Burberry, Sky and BT Care. All these brands are introducing effective social principles into the way their organizations work, and rightly being recognized for it.

Social thrust upon them.

This is the most interesting group. A collection of well-known brands that have been pushed into adopting social behaviours, and business models, after being hit by a social reputation crisis.

Dell (ranked #1), Domino’s Pizza (ranked #26), Eurostar (ranked #36), Virgin Atlantic (ranked #37) have all suffered from high profile crises that were either caused, or exacerbated, by social media.

To their credit they have all responded positively. Dell has famously put active listening of conversations around its brand at the very heart of its business model. Domino’s Pizza took the opportunity of its staff induced crisis, to proactively engage with its customers to reinvent the chain’s whole food offering. Eurostar has gone on the record to say that the stranded trains crisis of late 2009 prompted the transformation of its customer service and Twitter profile. Virgin Atlantic has taken positive steps in social engagement after getting stung by staff comments on social platforms in 2008.

These high profile corporate car crashes act as a lesson to all brands that have yet to consider how they will evolve their brands, and transform their businesses, for social.

So, if you’re one of those ‘pre-social’ brands thinking about how they will adapt for the new rules of a connected world, please don’t wait for a crisis to ‘thrust’ you in to it!

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Time to drop the ‘M-Word’?

With the reports on Social Media Week now in, it’s clear just what a huge success it was again this year. Congratulations to everyone behind it. We loved taking part, and will be there again in 2012.

One teeny-tiny request for next year, would you consider a name change? Would you, could you, ditch the ‘M-Word’? Social Brand Week London is pretty catchy! But Social Business, or Social Enterprise, would do just as well.

With the SMW brand going strong, this is probably a long shot (!). But changes like this would be a tangible sign that the blossoming industry around social specialists is growing up.

The underlying point is that the term ‘social media’ diminishes the transforming effects of social networks, and social behaviour.

The traditional definitions of media focus on the collective phenomena of: ‘newspapers, radio and television’, which have the ability to ‘communicate with and influence people widely’.

Of course platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare have this publishing power, but the social behaviour they allow is utterly different.

Because they are networked, content and conversation can bloom into any size or shape.

Because they provide a back-channel for two-way conversation, there is an expectation of being listened to, not just talked at.

Because they increase transparency, disconnects between truth and reality are exposed.

Because they allow sharing and co-creation, powerful movements can grow (as the Egypt uprising shows).

Breaking the link between ‘social’ and ‘media’ could help us move the debate forward. To start thinking about social not as ‘another channel’ (hate that), but as the forerunner of a linked, open world, where information and influence flow freely, and uniquely, for each individual, as per Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for the semantic web.

For brands, approaching this stuff at the platform (media) level isn’t sustainable. In true Darwinian fashion, the brands and organisations that will thrive will be those that can evolve the fastest, from the inside out, transforming structure, behaviour, skills, responsiveness, and culture, to meet the heightened demands of a newly connected people.

What do you think?

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giffgaff – showing us the future

When you invent a company on social brand principles from scratch, you end up with something like giffgaff.

For those who’ve not heard about giffgaff yet, it’s a mobile network run by its community. The idea is that members get rewarded for running parts of the business like answering customer care questions, getting new members, spreading the word about giffgaff and even developing new products.

Speaking at the packed Digital Surrey event last night, Heather Taylor, Social Media and PR Manager at giffgaff, gave some fascinating insights into the inner workings of a ‘social business’.

Heather’s insights:

  • Founder of giffgaff, Head of Brand Strategy at O2 Gav Thompson, came up with the idea to create ‘the Wikipedia of mobile’ after attending a conference on open source business models.
  • Before launching anything the team went out to the community, and asked them what they would want from a ‘mobile network run by you’. The business was then designed around the feedback.
  • Levels of engagement in the customer forums are much higher than for a traditional mobile model. Some ‘super-users’ in the forum are engaged six hours a day helping others.
  • giffgaff doesn’t focus solely on its owned forums. It views the giffgaff ‘community’ as anywhere online that interactions and comment about giffgaff take place. The company provides tools to allow community members to track these interactions in open networks e.g. its own URL shortening service, giff.ly
  • Every week the suggestions made by the community are reviewed by the CEO, CFO and exec team. The best ideas are implemented.
  • giffgaff has made its APIs available to the community, and all app development has been led, and completed, by the community.
  • After the community management team at giffgaff handled a network failure crisis in a timely and proactive way, customers turned down offers of compensation, and asked that the money be donated to charity instead.
  • giffgaff believe the model is scaleable. If giffgaff accounted for 25pct of O2’s total customer base, it would save £12.5 mln from annual  customer service costs.

That last point is the real eye-opener. Socially designed businesses can create fundamentally different models, and shift accepted thinking on financial ratios.

The proof of the pudding for giffgaff will be how loyal its customers are in the long term. In these early days the figures aren’t available. But if this business model can also create greater loyalty, leading to the mobile operator’s holy grail of lower churn, then it will be a game-changer.

Heather’s final insight was to wonder what is stopping other businesses adopting these models. She had one word, ‘legacy’.

By that she meant the legacy of existing business systems, and the behavioural legacy of how customers are used to being interacted with. As customers demand that these legacy systems and behaviours shift, we’ll see more giffgaffs, and more disruption to business models.

How would your business look if you re-invented it for social?

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Are you ready to ‘let go’ of your brand?

The old saying, ‘If you love it let it go’, is increasingly relevant for brand owners. Decades of prescriptive brand guidelines, exclusive deals with big media, and command and control public relations have been blown open by social media.

For brands to survive in our networked, transparent and co-creative world, they will need new attributes. Like an anxious parent sending their child out into the adult world, you know that you can no longer guide their every move, and can only hope that you’ve given them the values, skills, and character to thrive on their own.

Recently, brands have been experimenting with ‘letting go’ with varying degrees of success. Skittles were one of the pioneers in 2009, with a bold idea to allow the crowd to provide the content for their web page. After early accolades, the site descended into chaos, as mischief-makers posted offensive comments. Vodafone has had a similar experience using an unmoderated twitter feed for its ‘mademesmile’ campaign, and other examples abound.

In this context, it’s interesting to see Expedia Australia’s innovative approach to handing over its brand to people outside the organisation. In January Expedia Australia ran a competition to attract wannabe Facebook page administrators with the promise of an Aus$10,000 prize.

After ‘liking’ the Expedia Australia Facebook page anyone could enter, with the chance to be one of three people moderating the Expedia Australia FB page in February. The moderator that shows the greatest ability to build community, engage, and create content will win the prize.

Some commentators have asked if this is simply a predictable ‘competition led’ device to increase the ‘likes’ to the FB page.  That seems rather cynical, it’s much bolder than that.

The incentive to get involved is not simply the monetary value, but a brilliant platform for the chosen moderators to demonstrate their abilities, and most likely get a job offer from Expedia, or another company. This well thought through reward structure creates high levels of commitment and creativity from the guest moderators, attracting new fans and engagement, by reinvigorating the Expedia FB page content with fresh thinking.

This ‘fresh thinking’ is also the risk to the brand, as these individuals aren’t as steeped in the brand as the in-house team will be. However, with just three people to work with, rather than the entire social crowd, Expedia will be able to advise on tone of voice and ground rules, to minimise the chance of a misstep with the community.

More crucially Expedia can do this with confidence because it has already proved its ‘social fitness’ by taking significant steps into social branding. The company’s Twitter presence is well established, and is a proactive centre for customer relationship management. Meanwhile the behaviour and content via Facebook is appropriate, and engaging, indicating the company has invested in the governance and training to allow its people to do social well.

This ability to moderate, and the track record of genuine engagement in social, is what sets this activity far apart from the Skittles and Vodafone mistakes of the past.

So, if you’re going to let the brand fly the nest, please spend some time giving it the values, skills and character, to thrive in the big, wide, social world.

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Andy Gray and Richard Keys, victims as well as villains

From a personal perspective, I fully support Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ departures, from Sky Sports. Their comments and behaviour were disgraceful. Gray’s sacking and Keys’ resignation send a strong message to those who break sex discrimination rules in the workplace.

However, from a professional standpoint I think the wrong people are taking the heat on this. Yes, Gray and Keys were high profile pundits, but they aren’t in charge of running the organisation. The culture of casual sexism apparent in the multiple YouTube examples of Gray and Keys’ behaviour, can only thrive if management allowed it to do so. The bosses at the channel and the senior producers have to take ultimate responsibility.

I’m sure that the ‘star culture’ around Gray and Keys made it difficult to impose appropriate behaviour onto the locker room atmosphere of the Sky football studio. But that’s no excuse.

The increasing ubiquity of social media allows individuals to publish the inner workings of organisations to the outside world simply and easily. Sky is just the latest in a long list to be stung.

That personal publishing power isn’t going to change, so it’s organisations that are going to have to. Have a think about your own company. How would it fair if its inner workings were exposed? What lingering pockets of poor behaviour do you put up with on the basis that ‘it’s never going to change, and its not really doing any harm’. Once these shortcomings are put in the public domain there’s no room for such complacency.

In our work with organisations to improve their ‘social fitness’ a (perhaps surprising) amount of work is based on internal communications, governance, policies, and what constitutes ‘appropriate behaviour’ internally. We encourage our clients to think about the ‘inside out’ organisation.

‘Inside out’ means that a brand’s strength and reputation are rooted in the authentic behaviour of employees, which becomes the core of a compelling and true brand story. Companies like Dell, with it’s mass social media training of staff, or Best Buy, with it’s Twelpforce social customer service, are already treading this path.

Gray and Keys, are villains, but also victims of two things. First, the transparency and power of social media, and second, their employer’s failure to respond to the new rules of branding.

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Hamleys feels the force of social

Will Hamleys back down in the face of the animal lover lobby, too? Less than two weeks after an online and social media campaign compelled John Lewis to change the end of a TV advert that had dog-lovers up in arms, now the same effect is hitting Hamleys.

The famous London toy store’s decision to feature live penguins and reindeer as part of it’s Christmas promotional push has created a passionate back lash on the company’s Facebook page. The nature of these protests means that the ‘anti’ Facebook page is the next step, accompanied by calls to boycott the store over Christmas. Some people feel that John Lewis caved in too quickly to the demands of the crowd, and Hamleys are resisting so far, while presenting their argument logically. The problem is that logic gets put behind emotion during these ‘social campaigns’, and the brand is challenged to match the force of emotion that the crowd displays. Raw emotion is one of the four new forces of ‘Social Nature’ that I’ve talked about before. The others are real-time, interaction, and community. For Hamleys this last one is now the most important. A community is being built around the protest against it, will a community mobilise to come to the brand’s defence? One ‘pro-Hamley’s’ Facebook page has been launched, but so far it has one follower. For the reputation team at Hamleys it’s time to decide where their priorities lie. Is the short-term sales promotion more important than long-term reputation?

I would advise a graceful climb-down, some cuddly penguins instead, and a Facebook competition to go and see real reindeers. Entrants must ‘check-in’ to the store first, of course. What do you think?

(Update 02 December)

Well it’s happened. Hamleys have decided to cancel the live penguins at the store. Looking at the positive reaction to this on the company’s Facebook page, confirms that they have taken the right call. An ‘anti’ Facebook group attracted over 350 ‘likes’ while the ‘pro’ penguins group attracted just 16. It’s time now for Hamleys to find the opportunity in this crisis, and use the exposure to now engage with the crowd that has gathered around its social storefront.

 

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The U.S. Navy’s social savvy

On one level it surprises me that the U.S. Navy ‘gets’ social so thoroughly. Shouldn’t a large, complex and hierarchical organisation like that find social concepts like transparency and authenticity hard to adjust to?

Giving it some further thought, maybe it should be no surprise that an organisation that lives or dies (literally) on the quality of its communications and intelligence, should embrace social behaviours.

This Fall (that’s autumn for us Brits!) the U.S.Navy has come up with a ‘Social Media Handbook’ for personnel. Within its pages there is plenty of sound advice, and there is much here that can translate across to any civilian organisation, or business.

For the ‘time poor’ here are some highlights focusing on the U.S Navy’s overview on social, usage guidelines for personnel, and crisis communications.

U.S. Navy’s take on social

“The rapid growth of social media platforms and technologies have flattened and democratized the communication environment in ways we are just beginning to comprehend” – Adml, Dennis J. Moynihan, U.S. Navy Chief of Information (Spot on, and who can argue with an Admiral?!)

Guidelines for personnel (extracts)

  • The Navy encourages service members to tell their stories. With fewer Americans having served themselves in the military, it is important for our service members to share their stories of service with the American people.
  • The Navy asks Sailors to live their core values online, and understand that communication in social media is both public and international – even when they think they are just talking to family and friends.
  • When commenting about Navy matters, Sailors and Navy personnel need to be transparent about who they are and should identify themselves and their rank and/or position. They should also be clear that their opinions are their own, and do not represent their command or the Navy when commenting publicly on Navy topics.
  • Replace error with fact not argument, if you are engaging someone else online. If you see an error or misinformation, correct it courteously and factually but do not engage in a heated argument.
  • Admit mistakes. If you make a mistake then admit it and correct it immediately. If you do edit a posting online, make it clear that it has been updated or edited — don’t just try to make a change and pretend you never made the error. If people can’t trust you to own up to your own mistakes you will lose credibility.
  • Remember that everything posted on the Internet even for a second may live online  forever.

Crisis Communications (extracts)

  • Using social media to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis has already proven to be an especially effective use of the medium due to its speed, reach, and direct access.

  • You can’t surge trust, so your best course of action is to leverage already existing social presences. It is important to have a regularly updated channel of communication open between you and your key audiences before the crisis hits so they not only know where to find you online, but know that they can trust the information they get. (This chimes with our view on the importance of cultivating community in the good times, as per point five in this earlier post.)
  • Create a centralized location to funnel information. If you don’t have a command (centralized) presence then the people most interested in the crisis will more than likely decide as a group where they want to find information and start their own group. Whatever the case, you need to communicate where the people most affected are communicating.
  • Monitor incoming content posted by your users on your social sites so you can understand what information they need and what is happening to them.
  • Post cleared information as you have it, and there’s no need to wait for a formal press release. When you have solid information that your audiences want to know, post it.
  • Answer questions as often as practicable. Avoid just posting information on a social media presence – that is what command websites are for. (A fundamental point that many comms teams ignore in a crisis.)
  • Monitor external conversations regularly and correct inaccuracies. This is the best way to stop rumors before they run rampant. Use search engines and other monitoring tools to track discussion on the topic.
  • Share and cross -promote critical information with your network of trusted social media sites.
  • Encourage on-scene and first-responder personnel to engage via social media. You can do this by having them either use their personal accounts or feeding you information to post on the official command social sites.
  • Promote the social media presence on outgoing materials like press releases, e-mail signatures, links on the home page and even in conversations with reporters.
  • Analyze success of crisis communication via social media by looking at click-throughs, conversation, replies and reactions to postings, etc.

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Five practical steps towards better social reputation

As we head into the end of the year (how did that happen!) thoughts inevitably turn to how we’re going to do things differently in a bright, new, 2011. I had this in mind when I presented to a group of corporate communicators at PR Week’s ‘An issue ignored is a crisis invited’ conference on the 20th of October. So, as part of my session I focused on five practical steps that reputation managers can take to restructure their comms approach, and move their teams’ skill-sets and mind-sets to a place where they are better prepared to handle issues and crises in the socially enabled world.

I took five well established pillars from the ‘Old world’ issues and crisis management text-book, and considered how they should be evolved to prepare brands for the demands of ‘New world’ social reputation work. The five existing pillars are on the left in the image below, and the evolved approach on the right.

So, taking each in turn.

1. From a communications team, to an engagement team

A serious reputational issue playing out in the mainstream media has traditionally been handled by PR specialists and senior management, supported by legal teams. These are still crucial people to have in the war room, but the demands of social media require some additional skill sets too. A well-rounded ‘Engagement Team’ will now include social customer relationship management specialists, technical teams able to optimise content created for your response, analysts with the ability to make sense of the online conversation around your brand issue, and experienced community managers with the appropriate skills to know if, when and how any engagement should happen.

2. From media monitoring, to active listening

If you’re reading about a damaging issue in your mainstream media press cuttings, it’s too late. Once an issue has been amplified out of social media and into the mainstream you’re already in a ‘reactive’ position, and many companies have been caught out because of this, for example, Capri Sun.

In contrast active listening puts you on a proactive footing, listening out for issues in a real-time and persistent way. It’s also ‘active’ because you intend to take action, or assess possible action, on the basis of what you learn. Each brand or organisation can set up an active listening solution that suits them. This could be a specialist tool like Radian 6, or Brandwatch, free tools like Tweetdeck, but crucially all of them require human eyes (and brains) to make sense of the data through analysis.

3. From press releases, to content creation

Drafting template press releases, which cover likely crisis scenarios, is a standard technique to save time during a crisis. So should you do something similar for social content? Draft some tweets? Pre-record YouTube videos? Frankly, no. A social reputation situation will move in real-time, and in a dynamic manner. Rather, invest in your team’s technical and content creation skills. For example, have you got useful brand outposts like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube for your company? Do the team know how to use them? What socially enabled content could you create to tell your story during a crisis? Have you done the necessary preparation work with your legal team to speed up sign off procedures during a crisis?

4. From media and scenario training, to appropriate social behaviour

At a recent presentation on the future of journalism at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, the Editor in Chief of Reuters, David Schlesinger, made the following comment. “The more you try to be  paternalistic and authoritative, the less people will believe you. The conversation about the story is as important as the story itself.” This is an insightful backdrop against which you should re-apppraise how you prepare for reputational threats in the social age. Preparation is still the key to successful crisis comms, but you need to prepare in different ways now. It’s less about ‘front of camera’ and ‘press conference‘ skills, and more about social psychology. Remember you’re no longer talking to the intermediary of the mainstream media, you’re going direct to the public. They want transparency, authenticity, honesty and speed! Your team needs to be trained how to do this. The first step is to create some social media guidelines, then scenario plan and test the team’s ability to respond appropriately in a live environment. The n keep testing, learning, and getting involved in the conversation.

5. From stakeholder lists, to community influencers

The role of third-party advocacy to respond to a crisis remains as relevant as ever in the social age, it’s always better to be defended by others than defend yourself. In the pre Web 2.0 world a comms team would focus on individuals and institutions that could provide this advocacy through mainstream media. Now it’s also necessary to think about the online advocates you can mobilise. So how do you make this happen online? Work at it, and do so over time in the same way you might look to lobby important stakeholders over time. First, landscape who is influential around your brand and vertical, next undertake some community outreach and community building. Finally, grow some roots into that community, gain trust and understanding. As a result when an issue or crisis hits you have increased the likelihood of the community coming to your defence, the ultimate in crisis recovery. Preparation is now about preparing your community to defend you, not just your own people.

In summary, we’re in a situation now as reputation guardians where we have to think more broadly, and at the same time more rapidly, if we are to effectively protect and enhance the reputations of our organisation, or brand.

Would love to hear any comments. Happy Christmas!

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