1. Update your current crisis plan
Social media usage is increasing rapidly. The number of people using social media as a platform to complain about products or services is on the increase. Many companies have a crisis plan in place that covers mainstream media, but that’s no longer enough. A critical first step is to review any crisis plans or manuals that you have, and drag them into the social age.
2. Scenario training
Similarly it’s little use having excellent media training for your executives if the battle for hearts and minds is actually being won and lost on Twitter. When the brown stuff hits the whirring thing will your team be ready? Will roles be clearly set out? Are you prepared for the speed with which issues roll through social media? Investing in some scenario training that develops relevant social reputation management skills, will pay off.
3. Establish your social outposts
Brands like Paperchase and Eurostar have been caught out when an issue has hit, because they’ve not taken prior ownership of key social media outposts, like Twitter. To effectively manage a reputational issue that is created, or amplified, in social media it’s necessary to have the same tools as your detractors. Get your outposts established now. They are key ‘engagement hubs’ when you are caught up in a reputational storm (see 7 below).
4. Engage audiences in the good times
Consumers don’t simply want presence from brands in social media, they want engagement. Great news! Through some smart content creation, and an appropriate conversation strategy, you can populate your outposts with engaged friends and followers. These guys are going to be your best asset if your reputation is ever under attack (see 9 below).
5. Take-up active listening
What’s the best kind of crisis? One you prevent happening. Some of the messiest reputational car crashes in the social age e.g. Dell , Maclaran could have been minimised by effective listening combined with an effective response strategy. The starting point for all social reputation management is active listening.
6. Provide rapid response
Speed has always been of the essence in issues and crisis comms. In the social age the pace is merciless. This is where the preparation, training and scenario role plays kick-in. A well drilled team, with the appropriate brand outposts to work with, can get your communications onto the front foot with a rapid response to any attack.
7. Generate ‘stream’ of content
If you‘ve not succeeded in containing the issue (No 5), then you’re in full crisis mode. At this point both social and mainstream media are a voracious beast, hungry for information, the truth, the next development. If you can feed the beast fast enough, you have a chance to lead the agenda. If you don’t, you will leave an information vacuum that others will rush to fill with speculation, opinion and rumour, and the narrative is out of your control.
8. Listen, learn, adapt
In the heart of the crisis your listening must be even more acute. What are the latest developments/issues out there? How are your messages being received, disseminated, mashed up? What insights can be uncovered to inform strategy, tone and content? You can’t respond to every comment so be selective. If you’ve already invested time in establishing your sector’s influencers, this is when it can pay off.
9. Acknowledge and mobilise supporters
Remember those ‘good times’ back in No 4? They’ll seem a long way off at the moment! Don’t forget the power of a third party endorsement. Listen out for advocates and acknowledge and encourage their support. Don’t forget the power of your staff champions, and use effective internal comms to get everyone on the same page.
10. Discover the ‘opportunity’
Every crisis can become an opportunity. Using the insights from your listening activity, create a proactive comms strategy that demonstrate your true colours as a company e.g. M&S, Domino’s Pizza. Remember, bad things happen to good companies, it’s how you respond that’s remembered.
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