It seems like every week, another major corporate brand suffers a communications #fail – and it’s usually in the digital realm, where “instant” and irrevocable communications are the norm.
Between pure-digital disasters such as rogue tweets and offline PR scenarios that might not become water cooler conversation if not for Facebook, it’s easy to see why communicators hit the panic button when it comes to devising a plan for addressing a digital crisis.
A new study – released by Burson Marsteller – found that 49 percent of business decision-makers across the globe believe digital communications has made their company more vulnerable to a crisis and 79 percent expect to experience a crisis within the next year. You would think 100 percent of these folks have an existing crisis communications plan in place, yeah? Uhh, no, in fact only HALF of them said their companies have a crisis communications plan.
If you’re a major (or aspiring) brand, and you have skin in the digital game, then the likely next step would be to develop an overarching crisis communications strategy that includes specific responses for Twitter, Facebook and any other digital platform affiliated with your brand. If there’s anything to be learned from past mistakes it’s that having a plan of attack in a digital crisis is as crucial as having a digital presence.
Your basic crisis communications plan will (and should) change based on scale, industry, social output, and internal resources, but following are some basic “must haves” for every brand:
· Have a social media policy in place for every employee and contractor (and rogue Tweeter) in your organization. Sounds easy enough, yet many companies still don’t have one to call their own. By establishing a baseline upfront, all those representing your brand online are aware of the dos and don’ts.
· Gather your A-Team of social-savvy ambassadors, and give them an email alias and the power to make decisions about responses on the spot. Crises can happen after work hours, on the weekend and (the horror!) while your Marketing Lead is away. Make sure that in a crisis, you have a system for flagging it internally and crafting a response within 1-2 hours.
· Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. A Company tweet can’t be deleted unless there’s a tweet explaining the deletion. Similarly, a Facebook fan post should more often than not be left as is, otherwise fan backlash ensues. Be able to identify when is appropriate to let something blow over, and when to publically identify it and respond.
· Don’t get angry. It seems like simple advice but too often people take to the Internet to air their frustrations, or respond to a crisis the most public way possible and fueled by emotion. Breathe, rest, reassess. Then devise a smart response plan that is honest, transparent and in keeping with the true nature of digital communications.
Does your company or client(s) have a digital crisis communications plan in place? What are some “best practices” for a digital communications crisis that you recommend?
Guest post by SHIFT’s own Amanda Guisbond, @agbond
Posted on: July 11, 2011 at 9:25 am By Todd Defren