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Braving the social media crisis - learn how to survive a social media crisis by Insignia Communications


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When businesses face an 85% chance of enduring a serious crisis in any 5-year period (Oxford Metrica research) and over 90% are reporting negative consequences associated with social media (Symantec research), it's not surprising that many are re-evaluating how to protect their reputation in a social media age. To help with this, Insignia has partnered with CrowdControlHQ to produce a white paper, "Braving a social media crisis", to explore the new threats of social media and the ramifications for crisis management planning, crisis communication training and crisis handling. We hope that it provides interesting reading and valuable insights: do let us know if you have any thoughts, comments or experiences to add.
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Braving the social media crisis - learn how to survive a social media crisis by Insignia Communications

  1. 1. Social Media has changed reputationmanagement forever…. …and there are a few things you must know in order to stay alive.
  2. 2. ForewordThe advent of social media changed the rules of reputationand crisis management overnight. The power of onlinemedia means that today’s crises emerge at lightning speed,and spread further and faster than ever before. Socialmedia also imposes higher standards of transparency.Incidents which could previously be kept under wraps arenow much more likely to become public knowledge(sometimes even before the organisation itself is fully awareof them).To put it simply, a crisis fuelled by social media is notsomething you want to face unprepared. Social media posesinternal and external risks, both of which could have apotentially devastating effect on your organisation’sreputation and bottom line. You can no longer avoid theserisks by not having a social media presence. Whether you’reengaging or not, many of your stakeholders are on socialmedia, including your employees, customers, competitorsand, of course, the traditional media.CrowdControlHQ have partnered with InsigniaCommunications to raise awareness of new threats of socialmedia and the potential impact this can have on preparingand managing social media elements of the crisis.James Leavesley Jonathan HemusCEO, CrowdControlHQ Director, Insignia Communications
  3. 3. Congratulations!If you have been in your position for over five years, there is an 85% chance youhave faced at least one major corporate reputation crisis.**Any listed corporation faces an 85% likelihood of experiencing a significantcorporate crisis in any 5-year period.Source: Oxford Metrica, Aon Reputation Review 2011 If you have been with your organization for more than five years and the crisis hasn’t happened, some or all of the points below might apply to your company: a) You are very good at crisis prevention. b) You are very lucky. c) You are sitting on a dynamite barrel and have no idea about it.Crisis prevention and reputation management have changed significantly duringthe past few years. Social Media has affected how reputational crises appear andunfold.Whether you are a veteran or you have yet to face the fire, the following willprovide a quick update on what a Social Media crisis means and how you canprevent it, prepare for it and manage it in order to minimise the effect on yourorganization.
  4. 4. Your reputation is more important than everThe asset value of corporate reputation has increased significantly over recentyears, but so did the associated risks. Indeed, reputational risk was identified asthe greatest risk facing global companies, even higher than regulatory, humancapital, IT, market and credit risk. 66% of board members identify 63% of a company’s market value reputational risk as their primary is attributable to reputation concern when it comes to risk management ‘Safeguarding Reputation’ research by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, 2007 EisnerAmper, May 2012Enter the Social Media DragonRegardless of what started it or how it started, a crisis will almost always find itsway online. According to a 2011 report of the Federation of European RiskManagement Associations, reputational risk from social media is cited as amaterial risk by 50% of risk managers and a bigger cause for concern than cyberattack. So how is a social media-fuelled crisis different?Increased FrequencyWith social media, people are creating and sharing more information than everbefore. As more information about the organisation is created and shared insocial media the frequency of reputational crises has also increased. The greatertransparency provided by social media is another reason why the frequency ofcrises has increased.Staggering SpeedSharing information with your entire friend network and followers is only oneclick away. There are 800 million active Facebook users, each of them having 130friends on average. Equally, Twitter has incredible reach, with opinion formers andjournalists over-represented amongst its users. A reputation-damaging scandalcan spread in a matter of minutes.Global ReachWhat happens at a local level doesn’t stay local anymore. A company’s failure toprovide proper work conditions in one isolated factory in China can become thetalk of London and New York the next day (if not sooner).
  5. 5. Total VisibilityInvestors, factory workers and all your stakeholders now have free access toinformation about your company, its suppliers and customers. And thatinformation is no longer controlled by you: it is created by third parties.Easy recollection of the crisisThey used to say that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper. Notany more. Long after the crisis has passed, a simple Google search for yourCompany’s name will bring back all the articles and posts related to thecontroversial issues.More MeasurabilityOn the plus side, in the online space everything can be measured and scaled. Youcan more easily assess the dimensions of a crisis in order to deliver aproportionate response. It also helps with post-crisis review so that you can putplans in place to prevent similar events from occurring again.More interactionSocial Media can facilitate instant dialogue with concerned stakeholders.Addressing concerns quickly, empathetically and directly can go a long waytowards defusing a crisis situation and having a positive impact on how thecompany is viewed.
  6. 6. When the crisis is triggered by eventshappening off-lineA crisis is often triggered by unforeseen events happening off-line. Theseevents may concern a specific department or business unit, one of its suppliers:a work-related accident can start an enquiry on the work conditions providedby the organisation; rude treatment of a customer can cause a sudden burst ofaccumulated dissatisfaction with the company. Regardless of the cause, oncethe issue is picked up in social media, it will be amplified thousands of times. United Airlines broke songwriter Dave Carrol’s guitar in checked luggage. After being denied compensation, he created a YouTube video about the incident. Four days later, “United Breaks Guitars” had been watched by one million people. This video was the trigger for an outpouring of complaints from other angry customers of United Airlines, who shared, retweeted and reposted the video until more than 150 million people became familiar with the story. As a result, United Airlines’ stock went down 10% - $180 million. As we have seen above, social media has created a completely new environment for reputation management. Updating your reputational risk assessment is essential if you are to be fully prepared for the new risk landscape. Simply put, social media makes crises both more likely and potentially more damaging. By conducting regular reputational risk assessments companies become aware of the problem areas that could escalate into a crisis. Monitoring the social web for mentions of keywords related to these risks and setting up alerts when conversations around these topics increase can be a way to catch and address issues before they escalate into a full- blown crisis.
  7. 7. When the crisis is ‘purely social’Social Media and the new mobile technologies have created a whole newclass of reputational crises. No off-line event triggers these incidents; theyarise in the online space, often because of the organisation’s own actions onsocial media. As you will see below, ‘purely social’ incidents and can be asdangerous to the company’s reputation as those triggered by offline events.Internal causesYour employees can be your organisation’s worst enemy. Many reputationalcrises are triggered by employees’ actions on social media, either on thecompany’s accounts or on their personal profiles.Careless posting on the organisation’s accountsWhen an employee creates and manages the organisation’s social mediaaccount from their own personal account, mixing up messages can happenquite easily. There are many instances of accidental or inappropriate posting,which have caused great embarrassment and significant damage to anorganisation’s reputation. In February, someone at Chrysler’s social media agency tweeted from Chrysler’s official Twitter account saying that no one can drive in Detroit, Chrysler’s home city. Consequences? The employee lost his job, the agency got fired and Chrysler had to issue official apologies. In January 2012, Boners BBQ posted on their Facebook page a picture of a customer who left a poor tip, and made abusive remarks about her. The post went viral in a couple of hours. It took Boners 16 hours to issue a public apology on their Facebook. Password and login details are often shared between multiple employees in order for them to access the company’s social media accounts. If an inappropriate post goes out, tracing who is responsible can be almost impossible, especially if a large team is manning the social media accounts of the company and multiple marketing agencies have username and password access.
  8. 8. Employees’ behaviour on their own social media accounts affectsthe organisation’s reputationAccording to Edelman’s 2012 TrustBarometer, while CEOs’ and governmentofficials’ credibility plummeted, peers and regular employees’ credibility saw adramatic rise. Each one of your employees is a spokesperson for your brand,and each one of them has the potential to unleash a storm in social media. Inthe past years, worker terminations and long tedious lawsuits prompted bysocial network postings saw a dramatic increase.In 2011, a UK tribunal upheld Councilor Leslie Ghiz from CincinnatiApple’s decision to fire an City Council posted offensiveemployee who ranted about his comments aimed at another counciljob on Facebook. Apple’s social member on her Twitter feed. Shemedia internal policy clearly tweeted during a city council meeting,states that employees are not which started a controversy thatallowed to criticise the company ended up damaging public trust in theon social media. city council.Organisation fails to respond or responds in an inappropriatemannerComplaints and enquiries left unanswered on the organisation’s social mediaprofiles will affect the organisations’ reputation and alienate their audience.Some organisations have even tried to censor posts containing issues thatthey don’t wish to address in a public space. Femfresh’s Facebook page had 5300 likes. One post using euphemistic and infantile words instead of the word vagina started a torrent of comments from outraged fans. As the story went viral, the brand failed to issue any statement. Overwhelmed by criticism, they pulled down the Facebook page. 70% of all fan questions posted on social media channels are not responded to. Source: Social Bakers, 2012
  9. 9. Getting it rightOn the plus side, the reputational damage caused by an external event canbe minimised by intelligent use of social media. After O2’s one-day servicefailure, huge numbers of customers vented their frustration on Twitter. Thesocial media team handling @O2 in the UK dealt with their angrierrespondents with great skill and humour. In the process, the team managedto win back some of O2’s lost kudos. Many organisations empower their employees or their marketing agencies to create social media accounts on their behalf . Often, when an employee leaves the organisation he or she will leave with the login details to the social media accounts. In a crisis situation, customers can end up asking questions to an account to which the organisation doesn’t have access anymore. Responding to a crisis via social media requires the right resources and skills. The heat of a crisis is no time to be finding out whether those resources and skills are up to scratch. Consider running social media simulations to give your team the capability and confidence to successfully communicate via social media, and to assess where you may need to upgrade your resources and processes.
  10. 10. External causesBrandjacking‘Brandjacking’ occurs when someone assumes theonline identity of another entity for the purposes ofacquiring that person’s or organisation’s brandequity; similar to “passing off”. The Arctic Ready and the accompanying "Lets Go!“ hoax engineered by Greenpeace and The Yes Lab aims to increase awareness of Shells drilling plans in the Arctic. The ‘Arctic Ready’ site is so similar to Shell’s that it confused many into thinking that it actually was a failed social media experiment of the company. Arctic Ready allows visitors to create their own ads, overlaying custom text over photos of polar bears, whales, narwhals and birds. The website received over 2 million page views over a few days. Part of the same brandjacking campaign was also the false twitter handle @Shellisprepared, a spoof account for the Shell Social Media Team which, despite its parody content, fooled many into thinking it was actually engaging on behalf of Shell. The "BP Public Relations" (@BPGlobalPR) fake Twitter account launched by Greenpeace during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has more than 150,000 followers, three times more than the actual BP account. Brand jacking can happen to any organisation, and preventing it is almost impossible. But listening across social media channels for mentions of your organisation will intercept fake social media accounts in the early hours and allow you to take action.
  11. 11. Brand ambassadors’ actionsBrand ambassadors represent your organisation’s values. Sometimes, theiractions on their personal social media accounts can seriously threaten yourreputation. On the eve of the London Olympics, two members of the Australian Olympic swim team came under fire for posing with three guns and posting the photo on Facebook. The mainstream media took up the photo immediately and linked it to the massacre in Port Arthur from 1996. Following the flood of comments from enraged Australians, the Australian Olympic Committee considered keeping both swimmers off the team for the "foolish" action that was "clearly inappropriate for members of the 2012 Australian Olympic team." There are many ways in which a celebrity can potentially damage your brand on social media; foreseeing all of them is impossible, though reputational risk assessments can help. Monitoring your brand ambassadors’ social media presence provides a way to stay on top of any situation that might arise. Greek athlete Voula Papachristou, who had been part of Greeces Olympic delegation to London, was expelled from the team over a racist post on her Twitter account. The athlete is said to have referred to the West Nile virus and immigrants in Greece.Slurs and abuse on your Facebook pagesAnyone can post anything on your organisation’s Facebook timeline. Yourcompany is still responsible for the content, even if it was posted by anexternal user. Racial slurs, swear-words and spam links can gravely affect yourorganisation’s reputation and alienate your public. While your employees and marketing agencies work 8 hours/day, 5 days/week , internet spammers and trolls never sleep. A racist post left un-deleted on your Facebook page over the week-end can have serious consequences. More and more companies are looking for solutions to monitor their pages 24/7.
  12. 12. Three magic words: prepare, prepare, prepareSymantec’s 2011 Social Media Protection Flash revealed that 94% of 1225surveyed organisations had experienced “negative consequences related tosocial media”. Whilst many organisations focus their crisis managementplanning on threats such as cyber attack, terrorism or natural disasters,attending to the internal and external risks of social media is at least asimportant in crisis prevention. The previous examples demonstrate the perilsof ignoring this imperative in social media crisis management. 76% of social media crises could have been avoided or diminished if only companies made some internal investment in social media planning and preparedness. Altimeter’s Social Business Readiness Report, August 2011Reducing the likelihood of a social media crisis is an effort that should startfrom providing the adequate social media policies and training to your ownemployees. This process has three steps:1. Create a social media policyEmployees need to know where they stand with regard to social media. Andbusinesses need to establish clear guidelines to reduce the likelihood of self-inflicted reputational harm. Drafting a social media policy is the first step inachieving these goals.2. Communicate your social media policyPolicies only have value when they are communicated to staff so make surethat every employee is aware of the policy and is briefed on it as part of theirinduction procedure. The danger you must avoid is creating the perfect socialmedia policy that no one has ever read.3. Embed your social media policyThe third step – and the one that really makes the difference – is embeddingyour social media policy within the organisation. Reading a policy is one thing;understanding and embracing it is quite another. One of the best ways ofdoing this is via a social media crisis simulation where members of staff haveto apply the policy against a realistic scenario. It takes the policy from beingdry words to something that employees have tested and applied, but in a safeenvironment. Prepare to keep them updated as new situations arise and haveto be dealt with.
  13. 13. Who is CrowdControlHQ?Once policies and guidelines are in place, your organisation also needs thesupport infrastructure that will keeps your social media activity organised andprotected. CrowdControlHQ is a web based social media risk managementand monitoring tool that allows the entire organisation to operate safely inthe social space whilst giving marketing and operational teams a suite of time-saving features, alerts and insights.How we help you stay prepared:At organisational level• Keep social media usernames and passwords secure• Full audit trail of engagement activity• Controlled access to social media profiles• Protect your Facebook Pages from abusive content 24/7• Monitor the social web to identify external risks• Ensure compliance to policies and guidelinesAt operational level:• Gather Insight and report on campaign success• Manage campaigns and co-ordinate social media activity• Monitor and respond to comments across the social web• Engage with audiences in an abuse-free environment• Set up work-flows to ensure operational effectiveness• Share best practice and collaborate across teamsHow we help you manage and overcome the crisis:• Immediately restrict unauthorised access to social media accounts• Monitor what people are saying and see when, where and who is talking about the crisis• Deliver team alerts when conversation volume on certain topics rises above or below normal• Engage with your community to explain the issue by posting a unified message to multiple accounts• Respond or remove abusive posts in a timely manner• Ensure your crisis plans are held in a safe place within CrowdControlHQ, where everyone involved can access them• Terminate access of certain team members if there are only certain users authorised to respond and engage with a community during a crisis.
  14. 14. Who is Insignia Communications?Insignia is a communication consultancy which helps organisations protecttheir reputation through crisis communication planning, training and handling.We do this through:Reputational risk assessmentsReputational risk assessments identify and prioritise events, incidents andissues which could threaten an organisation’s reputation. Understanding therisks likely to damage your reputation in a social media world is the first steptowards managing them.Scenario planningScenario planning ahead of a crisis helps you make the best decisions for longterm reputation protection. Understanding the likely twists and turns of asocial-media-fuelled crisis enables you to prepare effective responsestrategies and take swift action to protect your reputation.Crisis communication plan developmentCrisis communication plans help you respond effectively in a crisis throughclear principles, processes, checklists and resources to shape decision-making.Today’s crisis communication plan must integrate social media if it is to betruly effective in protecting reputation.Crisis simulations and exercisesA crisis simulation is the first step in stress-testing your crisis plans andensuring that your people have the knowledge and skills to successfully applyit. It’s only by experiencing a simulated crisis that you can be confident thatyou are match-fit for a real one.Social media simulationsThe best way of getting to grips with the impact of social media on reputationmanagement is not in the heat of crisis, but through a training exercise whichallows people to experience what it feels like to be in the eye of the storm –but without any of the associated danger. A social media simulation deliversthis.Crisis handlingNo organisation can eliminate the possibility of a crisis, so being seen tomanage a crisis well is essential. Insignia offers crisis communication counselto protect your reputation when the chips are down.
  15. 15. About the authorsJames Leavesley –CEO of CrowdControlHQJames is CEO and Co-Founder of CrowdControlHQ. He studiedfor his undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds thenwent on to complete his MBA at University College Dublin. Hethen spent the next 10 years in specialist marketing and businessdevelopment roles across a number of different sectors withresponsibilities including developing companies in Eastern Europe and Russia.James finally found his calling after meeting his business partner CalumBrannan, where they began to focus on building corporate software inemerging technologies.Follow James on Twitter: @leavesjCalum Brannan – Co-founder of CrowdControlHQ Calum isresponsible for innovation and vision at CrowdcontrolHQ.He set up his first business at 15 and Sky News calls him"one of UKs most promising young entrepreneurs". He is asocial media analyst, having appeared as a commentator on Al Jazeera, ITNand various other outlets. This year Calum was nominated as a "YoungMaster" of the year by Google and Entrepreneur Country Magazine.Follow Calum on Twitter: @CalumBrannanJonathan Hemus – Director of Insignia CommunicationsInsignia’s founder Jonathan Hemus is an experiencedcommunication counsellor with over 20 years’ experienceproviding reputation management advice and training to worldleading organisations and brands. Before launching Insignia in2008, he was for ten years global leader of PR consultancy Porter Novelli’sglobal crisis and issues management practice. At Insignia he has developedplans and delivered training to prevent and prepare for crisis, and advisedorganisations in the midst of major incidents and issues. He is a regular mediacommentator on reputation management matters.Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @jhemusinsignia
  16. 16. Contact us:Find us online: 0845 686 5044Intl: +44 (0) 845 686 5044E-mail us: hello@crowdcontrolhq.comFind us on Twitter: @CrowdControlHQThe Fireworks,3-6 The Old Firestation, 68 Albion Street,Birmingham, B1 3EAFind us online: www.insigniacomms.comTel: +44 121 382 5304Email us: info@insigniacomms.comFind us on Twitter: @jhemusinsigniaInsignia Communications, 308 Birmingham Road,Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B72 1DP