Tag: Crisis

There is only so much sand in the hourglass and if you haven’t already figured out what your social media game plan is during a company crisis, please read on immediately.

In today’s age of communications having a social media crisis engagement strategy is critical to preserving your brand. Now more than ever, the public expects an immediate response on social media when a crisis hits. Every minute that passes by without a response is a slippery slope to disaster. According to a recent study on Hubspot 72 per cent of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour. Moreover, 60 per cent of respondents in the survey felt negatively about the brand if they did not receive timely responses.

Here are a few steps to consider on how best to develop a minimal defence on social media when dealing with a crisis:

1. Social Media Monitoring

There are many different software platforms out there but if you do not have a full-time person involved in this process or a person who fully understands how to monitor and what alerts to establish you are far better off to engage the services of a firm that can manage this process for you. The cost of such a monitoring service can run you anywhere from $500+ per month depending on the size of your company. Though software platforms typically cost within this range, the advantage of having an agency manage this for your company is that you don’t carry the additional costs of an employee. At that rate, it makes much more economic sense to outsource.

 

2. Understanding the difference between and issue and a full-blown crisis

Having a clear understanding of the issue is your first step. You should develop a cascade of responses and protocol to ensure that you don’t escalate an issue like an ice cream spill in a retail store to a crisis like a bank robbery in progress.

Make sure the Crisis Communications Team (CCT) has assigned a senior member to be responsible for any communication approvals for rapid response requirements. It is very important that you don’t delay in responding to customer enquiries even if it means providing placeholder responses noting that you’re aware of the issues and you will get back to them promptly. If you have been in these turbulent waters before you understand how quickly a poorly managed issue can soon escalate into a crisis.

 

3. First Responders

Know what the program is once your issue has been detected. Every great crisis management plan has protocols and messaging created in advance. Everyone should know who is on the team and what previously crafted responses are ready to go or need to be quickly modified. Your social media responders have to be empowered with baseline responses and a priority sequence on response levels and messaging. Make sure you have a consistent message that can be adapted across all social media channels.

 

4. Get the message up

Do not waste time pursuing the perfect detailed response. Even if you do not have all the required details, at a bare minimum, you need to inform your audience. Tell them you are aware of the situation and expect to be addressing it more formally within the hour or whatever immediate timeframe possible. This conveys your understanding of the urgency and immediacy of the situation. Also, be sure to display the highest amount of empathy possible. Being abrupt and unsympathetic will only add fuel to the fire.

Make sure your team has a standing ‘if in doubt’ response so that no enquiry goes unanswered. Furthermore, once the correct, informed responses to your issue have been created, make sure your social media manager is able to respond expeditiously, and in the event of uncertainty, that the appropriate level of senior management is available to sign off on the post. Ultimately you will need to post an official response to a situation on your website which will be used by the media, blog writers and others who will be reporting on your issue.

 

5. Pause your scheduled posts

Nothing can be worse than seeing a light-hearted acknowledgement of an unrelated event magically appear during the heat of a crisis. Disable your scheduled posts immediately. Your customer base needs to know that your priority focus is on the issue at hand and nothing else.

 

6. Create a crisis FAQ web page

Having a web page that addresses the most frequent questions around the issue gives you the ability to link to answers more efficiently. Details of the occurrence, contacts at the crisis site, lists of products impacted, geographic regions in question, etc., should all be aggregated in one place that can be easily referenced and shared throughout your social media posts.

 

7. Engage

Once the message is up, make sure you immediately engage with your audience responses. Make sure that you are consistent with your messaging and responding in a polite and caring manner. If you have positive responses, make sure and thank those supporters immediately. There will be individuals that cannot be pleased no matter what the effort and you need to understand this going in.

One tactic you should consider in your response is offering to take the conversation ‘offline’. While you may get a few people accepting this offer, at the very least, you are indicating to the broader audience at large your willingness to address heated and repeated comments directly. Remember, if you are satisfying the majority you have preserved your brand and supporting community.

 

8. Internal Employees

Your employees need to be made immediately alert to any social media crisis response campaign. It is critical that company employees do not randomly respond or engage in conversations on social. This protocol should be addressed in your employee handbook to protect the company/brand from rogue engagement. Make sure that all employees are aware of the situation when it breaks and to refer to the section in their handbook for references regarding proper behaviour. Also, make sure you keep your employees up to date on all developments and conclusions as they are reached.

 

9. Document Everything

Make sure you create a log of engagement. Tweets, status updates, blogs, comments on social media—everything needs to be saved in a central repository for future references. Make sure copies of all your emails are recorded. Also, review your campaign. Understand what worked, did not work and your social media activity as it relates to the time series of the event. Review web site traffic patterns and understand where visitors were engaged. Reviewing what happened will only make your campaign stronger the next time it happens.

 

10. Continue to monitor

One of the most common mistakes to crisis management is thinking it’s over and having it rear its ugly head again four days later. Keep a close eye and adjust your monitoring to key in on higher influencers. As well, make sure you are monitoring key date milestones. In other words, expect that someone will trot out “it was one year ago today…” these are common occurrences, and you need to be prepared.

These are but a few ideas that should help you better prepare. Until your next crisis…
HM

Over the past year, the demand for our crisis communications services has been on a considerable rise. Not surprisingly either. With the advances in technology and associated ability to convey issues of consequence through social media, the court of public opinion has become both a ruthless judge and jury within minutes of many issues, grievances and disasters both real and perceived.

If left unattended, perception will always outflank reality and most companies have very little time to respond to a crisis. Every day that passes by without acting to resolve a crisis will negatively impact your brand and often results in significant losses. More often than not the public trust is weakened and, in some cases, irreparable. Sadly, we are seeing these situations in social and earned media on a regular basis.

Most glaring is the amount of time required for companies to respond to a perceived crisis. It is inexcusable. There is no longer room for “no comment” or “next day” strategies. Today, the public expects an immediate response. Failure to do so is usually dealt with a swift blow to the company’s brand.

Given this regular occurrence, more companies are now beginning to evaluate their crisis management plan preparedness for such an event. Moreover, shareholders of publicly traded companies are asking management and board members alike if such plans exist. And yet in a recent Nasdaq poll close to 50% of organizations do not have a crisis communications plan and only 50% felt their companies were “adequately prepared to manage crises effectively” exposing them to serious risk.

While this number is staggering, risk exposure rises even further when one considers the last time many of these companies with a plan in place have had it updated, including vulnerability audits and stress tests to ensure crises readiness.

The harsh reality is that if your company hasn’t updated their plan annually or are not regularly practicing scenarios they are invariably exposed to a wide variety of issues. If you are completely lacking a comprehensive crisis communication management strategy, your level of risk has grown exponentially.

Recently, newer issues have appeared more frequently in the media and public domain and it is probably worthwhile to re-examine the issues that you may be up against. Some of the more frequent issues include:

  • Data breach, identity theft, privacy and security
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Violations of public trust within government
  • Offensive social media transmissions by employees

What can you do to avoid these potential problems?

To begin with, I recommend having an internal team meeting to determine whether or not your company has a current plan in place, and if you do, to carefully evaluate if the plan is sufficient. If there is even the slightest hesitation, bring in an outside expert to review and augment. You may find yourself in the middle of an exercise that requires considerable renovations to your existing plan. If your organization is completely without a strategy you should move quickly to have one built. This is not an exercise that should be taken lightly or handed to someone inexperienced.  Each crisis communications management strategy is unique to each company and while many follow fundamentals, the end strategy can often take between two and three months to assemble.

 What does it cost to hire an outside expert?

 No two plans are alike and therefore careful consideration should be given to the experience and size of undertaking you may be embarking upon. There is no set cost equation or template plan but consider the following to be some numbers to give you a barometer of costs likely to be incurred.

  •  Plan creation – involves multiple meetings with key stakeholders including senior management, legal, tech, frontline staff, etc. Largely depends on size and structure of organization. $25,000 to $50,000+
  • Training – this will include spokesperson training, media training, and mock interview drills to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the routing when a crisis occurs. $3,500 to $15,000+
  • Stress/vulnerability tests to examine potential problems and create routine response mechanisms. Depends on the size and nature of the company. $10,000 to $25,000+

Keep in mind the scope of your costs will be largely dependent upon the size of your organization, the amount of training involved, and the vulnerability audits and program adjustments required. At the end of the process you should have a manual, a crisis ready communications team and a good understanding of the possible scenarios you may experience and what to do when they happen.

Stock Chart for FB

Facebook (FB) stock plunge on Cambridge Analytica data breach

The cost of not having a plan and reacting poorly to a situation can cost you millions and even billions of dollars within hours. At the end of the day, the money you spend now will be considerably less than the money you will have to spend without one.

The likelihood of a company crisis today is not a matter of “if” vs. “when”. Having a crisis communications management strategy in place will undoubtedly help you mitigate your losses and protect your brand.

Hugh Mansfield (hugh@mansfieldinc.com) has over 25 years of crisis communications management experience. Hugh has handled some landmark cases including data theft, privacy, FDA, FTC and State Attorney investigations, Auditor General enquiries, filing issues with SEC, NASDAQ and TSX, along with major labor disputes, public health and safety, consumer product recalls, and numerous environmental disasters.

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