Managing a Social Media Crisis


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  • Social media is unpredictable. Social media is explosive. Social media often outpaces time itself. Social media is like a megaphone. It can broadcast the good, and it can turn whispers of discontent into yells that millions can hear all at lightning speed.\n\n
  • Social media can be risky for organizations. No organization is immune to a communications crisis. \n\nA crisis will happen. And people will now take to social media to express themselves. That is a given on both counts. While you can’t control social media, you manage it. It can be with done with well thought-out crisis planning. And that’s why we’re hear today. \n\n\n
  • \nOften it isn’t the crisis with the lasting impact it is how your organization responds to it will the lasting impact.\n\n\n
  • \nWhich one to you remember?\n\nHow many of you here have a digital in your crisis communications plan?\n
  • \n
  • That’s not a huge huge number when you think about how social media have been woven into our cultural lives. \n\nThis was taken from a recent crisis preparedness survey conducted by Burson Marsteller and Penn Schoen. It was a pretty comprehensive undertaking and would suggest you visit the full study. \n
  • That’s not a huge huge number when you think about how social media have been woven into our cultural lives. \n
  • Remember... the usage of social media is staggering... The adoption rates are amazing... I’m not going to through out lots of numbers and figures, but I want you to think about this...\n\nIt took the following communication channels the following years to each 50 million users:\nradio - 38 years\ntv - 13 years\nInternet - 4 years\niPod - 3 years\n\nFacebook added 200 million users in less than a years. \n\nThere has been a revolution in how we get and receive information. \nThe shift has taken place from lean back media where consumption was passive to lean forward or active media participation. \nThe Internet gave people choice. \nThe ability to search and find information we want and when. It gave us the ability to share our voice publicly and anonymously. \n\n\n
  • If you are lucky... This has caused a profound shift in how we as professionals handle crisis communications. \n\nCircling back to the 24/7 news cycle. News organizations have had to adapt to this new reality. Social media is transforming public relations from top-down process to a two-way street. And social media is also transforming journalism. Social media has forever altered how news is reported and broken. Journalists are no longer restricted to solely interacting public relations professionals for access to stories and information. The relationship between public relations professionals and journalists has changed. Public relations professionals need to aware of this changed relationship. We no longer have the journalist’s ear. Thanks to social media, journalists have the opportunity to connect with stories and sources quicker and frankly easier with a Google or hashtag search than going to an organization’s public relations department. Often bypassing the PR function of an organization all-together. Add in citizen journalist as another dimension to media. \n\nWhile it can facilitate, verify, and/or host discussions around news, traditional media is no longer the arbitrator of news it once was. Verifying content is a massive issue facing news organizations today. Before social media, checks and balances would have been used to verify stories before they were reported to the public. Today, content is bypassing traditional media and entering the public sphere without those pre-checks. It is being openly discussed and analyzed in real-time. \n\nThe era of the news media saying to the public “If you want to know what is happening in the world, then you must sit down at 6 o’clock and listen to what we think you need to know” is gone forever. \n\nSocial media circumvents the traditional gatekeepers of information: the news media and public relations. \n\nThis is where preparation is key to ensuring that the way you react to and handle a crisis leads to a positive outcome. It is very important to have a written plan in place and staff trained before a crisis happens, because you'll lack the time to do so once one happens. Having a crisis communications plan serves as an adjustable blueprint for any crisis situation. And in this age of social media, having a plan essential.\n\n\n
  • There are 6 social media crisis... I didn’t come up with this list... my good friend Christopher Barger who wrote the Social Media Strategist did and let’s not re-invent the wheel when the wheel is a good one...\n\n\n\n\n
  • Crisis Type 1: Individual-Generated. \n\nThis is when an employee does something unflattering and it reflects upon the company. Kenneth Cole, a US-based international clothing company ran into this in 2011 when their CEO tweeted making light of the serious situation in Egypt by tying a promotion for their spring line to it. The tweet from the official company Twitter stream: “@KennethCole – Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available on line – KC” (the link no longer works). The online communities reacted with repulsion regarding this Tweet and the company retracted the comment then issued an apology. \n\nCrisis Type 2: Customer service #Fail. A company is not fulfilling their brand promises or a customer is disgruntled with their experience. Just think of American filmmaker Kevin Smith, of the cult film, Clerks fame. When Southwest Airlines removed him from a flight because of his weight in 2010, his complaint online spread quickly because of his more than 1.5 million Twitter followers at time. It swiftly became a news story causing a headache for Southwest Airlines.\n\nCrisis Type 3: Campaign. \n\nThis is an organized effort against a company by activist groups. Think Greenpeace and Nestle’s Facebook page being hijacked over the company’s use of palm oil in their products. Or the now infamous Twitter account of @bpglobalpr. It looked legit, but it was a parody account spoofing BP after the Gulf of Mexico spill in April 2010. In the beginning it confused by many as the voice of BP. It has and continues to have more followers on Twitter than the official BP account.\n\nCrisis Type 4: Social Media #Fail. \n\nThis type of crisis is when a social media campaign or tactic misses its mark and is received poorly within the social media sphere. In the fall of 2011, the Australian airline, Qantas, launched a social media campaign, #QantasLuxury, on Twitter. They asked people to tweet what would be their best inflight experience. At the time Qantas was having some flight disruptions. And the Twitteriti pushed back basically hijacked the hashtag with less than flattering responses. \n\nCrisis Type 5: Organizational Brain Freeze. \n\nThis is for no other better words, a “What were they thinking?” moment for an organization. The National Rife Association had that moment in the summer of 2012 when a tweet went out after the horrific mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado where twelve people were killed and 58 injured when a gunman shot into an audience watching a midnight screening of The Dark Knight. The tweet from @NRA_Rifleman account (profile has been since deleted), “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” People were outraged by this tweet as news spread about the mass shooting in Aurora. It must be noted that the Tweet was pre-scheduled via the social media management software, Hootesuite, and the scheduler did not know about the unfolding overnight news when scheduled. \n\nCrisis Type 6: Three Mile Island.\n\nThe title says it all. This is a major organizational meltdown where all heck breaks loose. It doesn’t have to be social media generated, but be major news for an organization such as a large multinational entity going bankrupt or a major misstep such as in the case the Susan G. Komen For the Cure which mission is to find a cure for breast cancer. In 2012, they had a major organizational meltdown for which they are still trying to recover from. Komen For the Cure provides funding for breast cancer research and preventative care such as breast cancer screenings. Komen For the Cure decided to defund Planned Parenthood. A very public firestorm against Komen For the Cure ensued. It must be said that in the United States, anything to do with Planned Parenthood is inflammatory. Especially in this charged political environment. In addition, outside of breast cancer survivors, supporters of Planned Parenthood are second to none in their passion for the mission and are highly organized. Komen reinstated funding for Planned Parenthood a short time later. Reasons for the defunding were sketchy. Komen For the Cure was gutted via social media platforms. Key members of the executive team resigned. One of Komen For the Cure’s major fundraising vehicle, Race for the Cure, have seen participation decline by as much as 30 percent. \n\nOK, so how do we deal with above?\n\n\n
  • social media is not a stand alone function. It should be integrated into a crisis plan from the get go. Social media is one channel to communicate on. \n\nSocial media forces organizations to be quick... because it is isn’t media driven but community driven. \n
  • Travis went over this, but let me do a just a quick overview of what musts should be in your crisis communications plan. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but something to think about....\n\n\n! A trained crisis communications response team. Your team should be identified and drilled on scenarios... The better prepared the team the quicker the response to the crisis at hand. \n! A list of anticipated scenarios using the SWOT analysis that looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats... and these scenarios shouldn’t be just thought up by the PR person... bring in other from all levels of the organization. It maybe a very enlightening exercise. \n! Holding statements, which can be used immediately after a crisis breaks. They will buy you time. Rick Wion head of McDonalds US social media had holding statements translated into 140 characters and cleared by legal so when a crisis hits they are ready to react quickly. \n! Notification systems such as phone trees or email and text messaging groups. You should have more than one channel to reach people. Don’t forget to include staff... specially the social media savvy staff member who may have a wider and more influential status. This is invaluable to an organization. In addition, It is very important to have social media guidelines in place. Just don’t dictate... work with the social media savvy staff. \n! Social media is social. All about connecting and conversation. It is important to have monitoring services set-up before a crisis happens and you should be listening... some firms... Radian6 Nielson Scout Labs SM2 ViralHeat pricing varies from 9.99/month to 40,000/year. We could do a whole seminar on monitoring... but know what you wish to monitor before hand. Many large organizations are moving towards a mission control center concept.\n\n\n\n
  • Don’t censor criticism on your blog, Facebook page, or YouTube channel. This is a very difficult concept for an organization to wrap their minds around. Removing an offending comment risks blowback, as evidenced by Nestlé’s handling of Greenpeace’s YouTube video or Chapstick deleting comments on their Facebook page. You should have posted on your online platforms terms and guidelines for acceptable community behavior. Social media has given many the ability to share their voice publicly and anonymously. If someone or group is behaving against those community guidelines then you can remove those comments. However, if comments are within those guidelines and regardless if you don’t like what is being said, you shouldn’t delete. If it is an attack on your organization’s blog then it is within your right to disable comments. Facebook is trickier because unlike with your blog where you can disable comments on just one post, on Facebook you’d have to disable commenting for the whole page. It would be a good idea to post a reminder informing users about your community guidelines while enforcing your desire for constructive conversations. Then contact that person if deemed needed offline letting them know about the community guidelines and work to resolve their issue. It is good to post to your Facebook account or blog regularly to demonstrate your organization is paying attention to the channel.\n\nDon’t be afraid to bring order into your organization’s online space. Once that has taken place then you can start addressing the concerns. Acknowledge the situation quickly if it is a Level 2 Impact and above. Gone are the days for shuttering the windows and saying nothing. You need to respond quickly and be forthright. If your organization mishandled a situation, then admit you blundered especially if it is in regards to a social media campaign or individual generated situation. If it is a more serious situation then this is where the holding statements specifically written for social media come into play to by providing the needed time to research the situation. \n\nListen and understand what the negative commenters want: Do they want an apology? Acknowledgement? Do they demand change? Respond directly to the person. Understand that each social media channel will have a different tone due to it targeting different audiences. It all has to say the same thing, but just said differently. Keep in mind social media is more fluid and relaxed. It is conversional. What works in a media release, website or brochure, won’t necessarily work on Twitter or Facebook. Monitor and remain silent if it is a Level 1 Impact. This is where those relationships built with communities will pay off. Often, your champions will respond for you righting the situation.\n\nIt is a good idea to create a crisis specific Twitter account if it is a Level 2 Impact and above. This will allow for the media and community to get efficient updates during a crisis. Remember, your website is your digital home and all social media paths should lead there. Information on the crisis shouldn’t be hidden; it needs to be front and center on your website landing page. \n\nAnd keep your website and social platforms updated with people available to interact. That means 24/7 and on weekends. Crisis rarely happens on Monday morning at 9am. It usually happens at Friday afternoon at 4:58pm or a Saturday morning of a long holiday weekend. And when a crisis happening, it doesn’t stop for the weekend or holidays. \n\nSocial media is a two-way conversation. Negative conversations or attacks cannot be completely prevented, but effective interaction can take place. Social media is like in onion, it has many layers, diverse, can make you tear up, or be sweet and mellow melting. It depends on how you prepare it.\n\n\n\n
  • Social media is two-way conversation. People now expect to be heard and get a response from you. It is no longer a relationship between you and traditional media when dealing with a crisis... it is now a relationship between you and followers on Twitter... you and Facebook fans... you and subscribers to your blog. \nConsumer's, however, have fairly low expectations that retailers will respond to their negative posts. Of the 32% of consumers that did not receive a response to their negative review from the retailer, the survey confirmed:\n61% of consumers would be shocked if a retailer responded to their negative comment on the social web. \n\nAccording to The Retail Consumer Report, By listening and proactively responding on the social web, says the report, retailers have a chance to turn disgruntled customers into social advocates. The survey found that, of those who received a reply in response to their negative review:\n33% turned around and posted a positive review.\n34% deleted their original negative review. commissioned by RightNow and conducted online by Harris Interactive in January 2011 among 1,605 online US adults who shopped online during the most recent holiday season, consumers who have a bad experience, will not come back. And more than ever, unhappy consumers are turning to the social web to share their complaints.\n\n\n
  • \nDuring the busiest shipping season in the United States, the global shipper FedEx was faced with a damning video posted on YouTube. The video showed a FedEx delivery driver lobbing a large package, which contained a computer monitor, over a high fence. FedEx reacted quickly and addressed it not only by traditional means but also via social media channels by tweeting, posting a response video to YouTube, and using its corporate blog to get the message out.\n\nBackstory... This is what Shea Leordeanu, media relations for FedEx, awoke to a morning in December 2011 during the busiest shipping time in the United States for FedEx. For example on their busiest day in December 2011, FedEx shipped 17 million packages worldwide. A Google Alert caught her attention about a story based on a YouTube video in the Britain’s Daily Mail regarding a FedEx delivery gone terribly wrong. Not something as a public relations professional you wish to see the first thing in the morning. \n\nLeordeanu viewed the video. She was the 249th viewer. It hadn’t gotten traction. Yet. But she knew it had potential to viral. It had all the hallmarks of what makes a video go viral based on her experience:\n-It was short.\n-The video quality was good.\n-There were no spoken words; the actions did the speaking.\n-It would be funny or shocking to the viewer.\n-It played into a national or international news story. \n\nFedEx was prepared. FedEx was prepared to handle this crisis. As a Fortune 100 global shipping company, they have separate multilevel crisis plans for social media, security, retail locations, etc. They take preparing for crisis seriously regularly reviewing the crisis communications plans and drilling. \n\nThere was a lot of confusion. The origin of the video was a mystery. While the video was first thought to have been in Britain since story originated in the Daily Mail, they quickly realized based on the driver wearing shorts, architecture, and climate, it wasn’t in Britain, but somewhere in the US and mostly likely the west coast. At this point it was in a race against time. Social media is at odds with real world speed so as the United States awoke more and more people saw the video, commented and shared through various platforms. It became a news story. All as LFedEx is working to find this customer. Remember they are working without a name, address, or tracking number. This is all good old-fashioned detective work. It takes time. \n\nThey couldn’t give out any information until the found the customer and met the customer\n\nWhat made this successful? \n\nPlan. They had a plan. They were prepared because they were aware of potential situations and they had tactics into place to react quickly. Their teams were trained.\n\nMonitoring. All of these organizations had monitoring programs in place to alert them to potential issues and opportunities. All had different they had alerts set up on different levels such as a social media service monitoring and Google Alerts. Both had multitier monitoring set-up. \n\nSpeed. All of these examples showed the importance of a speedy response. \n\nTone. FedEx struck the right tone in their response. They joined in the conversation. There was no corporate speak was used in the responses. Social media is social and it is important to address your audience in appropriate language.\n\nChannel. They all addressed the situation in the channel for which it was happening in then moving on to other channels as needed. \n\nEffectively managing a social media crisis can only come from having a good crisis plan in place and a well-trained team. Having a company culture willing to engage during a crisis helps. \n\n\n
  • Just after the Gulf of Mexico spill in April 2010, the Twitter account @bpglobalpr became active. It began tweeting out statements about the disaster with the hashtag #BPCares. It looked legit at first glance, but it was a parody account spoofing British Petroleum (BP). In the beginning it confused by many as the voice of BP. Though if you look at the avatar is it pretty apparent that it is a spinoff and then after reading the tweets such as one of the more widely shared Tweet from the account as shown in Figure 5.8. This parody account took humorous, but very pointed jabs at BP’s handling of the disaster. Like with Shell Oil, the activity was thought to be a failed attempt at social by BP. The account has and continues to have double the followers on Twitter than the official BP account. The @bpglobalpr account was one of the first breakout parody accounts on Twitter and spawned a few other brand or individual parody accounts. There was a time on Twitter when parody accounts were new and novel. Now they are extremely common and pop up after some noteworthy event. But serve a purpose and that is to get people talking about the mocked organization and/or the situation. \n\nActivism ... Brand squatting or parody accounts such as @BPGlobalPR illustrate how an organization’s reputation can be damaged. \n\nWhat went wrong? \n\n- BP did not gather up all the potential usernames\n\n\n\n
  • Are you ready to do some work? \n
  • Backstory... \nThe British mobile telecommunications provider O2 was faced with a major network failure. Their service went out for 24 hours enraging their customers who were unable to make/receive calls and text or access data. About 8million customers were affected. Mobile technology has become heavily relied by many and for many it is their only communications device so customers were understandably upset. Many customers took to social media to express their frustration and for some they did it in a very colorful way. \n\nWhat sort of social media crisis is this? While it isn’t a social media generated crisis... customers took to the social networks... How would you respond as the communications person? Remember tone is important?\n\nHow would you have prepared for this?\n\n
  • This was some of O2’s responses to customer’s outrage. \n
  • Reactions?\n
  • \n
  • If you’d like to know more about planning and managing a social media #FAIL then think about my upcoming book\n
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  • Managing a Social Media Crisis

    1. 1. Managing a Social Media CrisisNorth Carolina PRSAPublic Relations & Marketing SeminarNovember 15, 2012 Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR Mind The Gap Public Relations, LLC • @amvandenhurk
    2. 2. Social Mediacan be risky.Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    3. 3. Bad things happen topeople & organizations Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    4. 4. How you react is howyou will be remembered Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    5. 5. Which one do you remember? #weinergate#seriouslymcdonalds Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    6. 6. So How Many Have aCrisis Communications Plan?
    7. 7. Only a third of organizations have digital plans in place.*2011 Crisis Preparedness Study, Burson•Marsteller & Penn Schoen Berland, 2011 Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    8. 8. Every organization needs digitalintegrated into your crisis comm plan. Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    9. 9. Living in a 24/7 media cycle & widespread social media use Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    10. 10. The response time hasbeen cut from 2 hours to 20 minutes Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    11. 11. Six CommonSocial Media Crisis Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    12. 12. Common CrisisIndividual-GeneratedCustomer Service #FAILCampaignSocial Media #FAILOrganizational Brain FreezeThree Mile Island Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    13. 13. BasicCrisis Communications Still Applies Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    14. 14. Blue PrintA crisis response team identified and trainedA list of key stakeholders to communicate with directlyA list of anticipated scenarios using the so-calledSWOT analysisHolding statementsNotification systems such as phone trees or emailand text messaging groupsMonitoring services set-up Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    15. 15. When a Social Media Crisis HitsDon’t censor criticism on social media channels.Bring Order to Your Organization’s Online SpaceListen and UnderstandCreate a crisis specific Twitter accountWebsite & Social Platforms Updated Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    16. 16. Dealing the NegativeRespond quickly as you canBe polite, respectful & level-headedCorrect inaccurate informationCommunicate how is being done to address theconcern & what are the next stepsGive a way people can contact you offline Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    17. 17. Examples...FedEx Got ItRight Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    18. 18. BP Maybe Not So Well. Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    19. 19. Ready?Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    20. 20. What would you do?O2 Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    21. 21. Now O2’s Responses Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    22. 22. Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    23. 23. Take-a-wayHave a plan & drill on itBe monitoring the social media scape... blogs, Twitter,Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn before a crisisDon’t wait until a crisis to get involved in social media.Know & actively engage social media savvy staffTone matters. Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    24. 24. Need to Know More? Pre-Order now... Available April 2013 Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR • @amvandenhurk • • 302-563-0992
    25. 25. Contact mobile@amvandenhurk on Twitter