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Crisis Communications in a Social Media Age


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Presentation given to PRSA Colorado. How and why to incorporate social media into your crisis communication plans.

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Crisis Communications in a Social Media Age

  1. 1. - Nuts & Bolts of Crisis Communication - Dealing with Social Media - Lessons from BP Communications in a Social Media AgeSocial Media Age
  2. 2. 1. Crisis Communication Nuts & Bolts
  3. 3. Are We Guilty of Complacency? • It’s not going to happen to me. • If it happens, it won’t be that bad. • If it is that bad, someone will rescue me.
  4. 4. Here’s what could happen to you… • Fire • Explosion • Government investigation • Controversial law suit • Accusation of discrimination based on race, sexual preference or gender • Product recall • Serious injury to someone within or outside of the organization • Protest • Strike • Physical violence between co-workers • Illegal workers booked by INS • Theft by an outsider (ideas or physical assets) • Embezzlement • Hostile takeover • Outbreak of food poisoning caused by your company (maybe even at your company picnic) • Death of top executive • CEO gets arrested for drunk driving • Natural disaster • Plane crash • Stolen credit card data • Books were cooked • Major interruptions in service • Computer system crash, causing you to lose all data • One of your employees is accused of a high profile crime • Sexual harassment case • Rape on your premises • Dramatic downsizing causing significant job loss in a geographic region • Chemical spill • Radiation leak • A major competitor has a huge crisis, throwing attention on your company • Caught in a lie • False advertising accusation • Celebrity spokesperson embroiled in personal scandal • Closing of a facility • Production sourcing internationally or at a non- union facility • Union grievance • And, of course, alien abduction of your entire management team
  5. 5. What to do?
  6. 6. Handout: Colorado NonProfit Association Crisis Comm Template • Good basic overview of a crisis communication plan • Walks you through the steps to create your own plan.
  7. 7. Fundamentals of a Crisis Communication Plan • Situational Awareness – What’s going on? Where? Who? • Operations – Who’s in charge? – Who says what? • Message Development • Victim Management • Afterwards…how to rebuild trust.
  8. 8. Crisis Communication (external) 1. Phone/E-mail List – Disseminate an emergency list with phone numbers 2. Perform annual communication audit and Strength Weakness Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) analysis. 3. Media Training – Identify and train organization spokespeople. 4. Crisis Management Checklist – Update the Crisis Communication Checklist for staff to have with them at work and at home, including crisis procedures, policies regarding media inquiries, communication priorities and best means to reach the crisis manager. 5. Key Audience and Media List – Keep contact information for key audiences updated so that they can be easily contacted in a crisis. 6. Key Messages – Spokespeople should be familiar with organization’s key messages. During a crisis, Crisis Communications Team will craft relevant messages.
  9. 9. 7. Pre-approved Statements – Responses for common media inquiries should be created and approved by the board as necessary. 8. Emergency Personnel – Maintain contact information for police, fire, hospitals, the health department, utilities and paramedics. Make sure staff know how to access the information. 9. Off Site Alternatives – Determine a location to convene and/or from which to stage communications if the crisis situation prevents staff from getting to or using the office. 10. Equipment – Identify necessary resources prior to a crisis, including extra cell phones, computers, etc. Determine how it would be gathered and who would be responsible for operation. 11. Drill Session – At least quarterly, review and practice crisis communications plan. Crisis Communication (external)
  10. 10. 2. Dealing with Social Media First things first… If you don’t have a communication plan, social media won’t help you. You’ll just have more areas to screw up.
  11. 11. So Why Pay Attention to Social Media? • It can start a crisis.
  12. 12. Question: How many spokespeople does your organization have? Answer: As many employees, friends, family members, suppliers, colleagues, and associates of your business…that’s how many.
  13. 13. Brands that Got Sunk by Social Media • Dominos • Wholefoods CEO trashing competition online • Dell laptop catches fire on YouTube • AOL recording not letting customers cancel
  14. 14. Why Pay Attention to Social Media? • It can start a crisis. • It can fuel a crisis.
  15. 15. Dominos Bad Word-of-Mouth Skyrocketed
  16. 16. Why Pay Attention to Social Media? • It can start a crisis. • It can fuel a crisis. • It’s effective at informing people in a crisis.
  17. 17. Real Time Information
  18. 18. Informing – California Wildfires 2007 Of the 307 people surveyed affected by the fires… • A majority (54 percent) indicated they used mobile phones to contact friends or family to get tactical information about the fires (road closures and fire line status) • A significant majority (76 percent) consulted information portals and websites. • Just like you wouldn’t ignore TV, radio, or print; online communication is the fourth table leg in any plan.
  19. 19. Why Pay Attention to Social Media? • It can start a crisis. • It can fuel a crisis. • It’s effective at informing people in a crisis. • It increases engagement.
  20. 20. Engagement: Text to Haiti • $33 million was raised in $10 increments through the ‘text to give’ campaign. • That means 3.3 million people participated. • The text number (90999) was easily forwardable, easily doable, and appealing to the very audience that was virally passing it along.
  21. 21. How is Social Media A Different Animal?
  22. 22. What is Traditional PR? • Traditional GATEKEEPER of Information – Used to be all about Control • But You’re Too Late! – The Train has left the Station • Now it’s all about influence! (Dave Taylor, November 2008 PRSA Conference)
  23. 23. Influence: the Real Currency • Ideally, You Want Good Buzz – Which comes from discussion… • Which comes from people… – Who are swayed by influence. (Dave Taylor, November 2008 PRSA Conference) • Influence does not equal spin! – Its more subtle… • Think Nancy Drew – It’s about leaving clues so people can follow your breadcrumbs.
  24. 24. Breadcrumbs = Findability • How can people find you? – What do you want them to find? – Are you making that easy or hard? – Why do they want to find you? • How can people find discussions about you? – What are those discussion? – What’s not being discussed? – Who is talking about you? Dave Taylor, November 2008, PRSA Conference
  25. 25. Social Media puts the ‘Public’ Back in PR Social Media is less about… – One-way communication – Control – Hierarchy – News reporters – Spin …and more about…. – Two-way communication – Influence – Findability – Community – Authenticity
  26. 26. OK, I’m Convinced. What Should I Do?
  27. 27. #1. Track Everything#1. Track Everything • Google Alerts – • Google Blog Search – • Twitter Search – • • ($18/month)
  28. 28. #2. Measure Everything#2. Measure Everything Karen Freberg, M.A. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  29. 29. How to measure social media • Free sites for online tracking and measurement – People Browsr – SM2 – Google Insights – Samepoint – Social Mention • Other sites – Radian6 – CustomScoop – Viral Heat – Nielson Buzzlogics – Cision Social Media
  30. 30. #3. PARTICIPATE#3. PARTICIPATE • Blogs • Podcasts • Facebook • MySpace • LinkedIn • Twitter • Flickr • Wikis • Yelp Goal is to 1. Build relationships 2. Increase findability.
  31. 31. Silence isn’t Golden • These conversations are taking place with or without you, so ignoring them only eliminates you from the conversation and also removes your company from the radar screens of your customers.
  32. 32. Deputize! • Can’t just be you. • Get others to engage • Set guidelines
  33. 33. #4. BE AUTHENTIC#4. BE AUTHENTIC • Social media world values and expects honesty, integrity, and transparency. – Don’t pay for good reviews – Don’t lie or cover-up – Don’t spin
  34. 34. Be Authentic • Example: Bindeez Crisis – Defensive / Legal: “We are investigating the allegations. At this time, we are not admitting any wrongdoing and have been told not to comment further.” – Authentic: “As parents and grandparents ourselves, we are horrified by this incident.”
  35. 35. #5. LISTEN#5. LISTEN • Be open to altering your processes, products, services, behaviors and approaches to stakeholder engagement, so it is more in line with their needs and wants
  36. 36. After Speaking & Listening… • Speaking & Listening… – Speaking & Listening… • Speaking & Listening… – Speaking & Listening… » You get a… A Two-Way Street… which builds relationships
  37. 37. #6. APOLOGIZE#6. APOLOGIZE • A simple, honest apology (without taking legal blame) can defuse the most volatile situation, often averting a communications crisis. •
  38. 38. #7. ACT QUICKLY#7. ACT QUICKLY • Antagonists, storylines, naming conventions, hashtags, stakeholder groups, etc are being formed immediately.
  39. 39. Tone and Tactics are Different Defense • Attack accuser • Deny crisis • Excuses Offense • Ingratiation • Corrective action • Full apology Karen Freberg, M.A. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  40. 40. Do’s and Don’ts • DON’T go into crisis mode on every customer complaint. • DO engage. “Hey, I saw your post and wanted to find out what you can tell me.” Don’t offer any speculation or opinion, just gather information until you can find the original source of the problem. • DON’T get dragged into an argument, or a back-and-forth debate about who is right. • DO create a central news and resources page if the crisis is serious. Direct all traffic through various social networks, blogs and news sites back to your resource page. • DO enlist regular PR tactics and traditional media.
  41. 41. Things You Could Start Today… • Pick two or three social media outlets and get involved in the conversations. Depth is better than breadth. • Prepare a ‘dark site’ (crisis web page ready to go live) • Acquire emails, Facebook links, and Twitter IDs like you would phone numbers • Encourage honest feedback on Yelp or Ratepoint • Set up your own Flickr group with pictures YOU want to share • Create a blog that posts all emergency notices – Google, Wordpress, etc
  42. 42. Example of Emergency Blog
  43. 43. 3. Lessons from BP
  44. 44. Social Media Ostrich • Before the spill, BP had few tweets and Facebook posting a month • Even though explosion occurred April 20.. – BP didn’t tweet until April 27 – BP didn’t post on Facebook until May 2 • Since then, they’ve posted nearly every day. – It turned off comments on its YouTube channel. Its Facebook page is open to comments of those that "like" BP America.
  45. 45. In the absence of proactive positive information, negative information fills the void.
  46. 46. • 29 days after the start of the Gulf oil crisis —@BPGlobalPR sent out its first tweet: “We regretfully admit that something has happened off of the Gulf Coast. More to come.” • The 488 tweets that followed have made @BPGlobalPR a Twitter sensation, generating media coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ABC News and countless blogs. • Some mistook the parody account for an official BP Twitter account • @BPGlobalPR became a wake-up call for all communicators. Twitter: @BPGlobalPR
  47. 47. What Could They Have Done? • Crowdsource ideas for online brainstorming sessions. – (from Shel Holtz, • Posted the HD video images and indicated how they were deriving their flow estimates. • Attempt to humanize BP – employees with flip cameras down on the Gulf showing what they are doing to help the region. communications-and-social-media/
  48. 48. Anyone want to discuss your own case studies and real-life examples? Communications in a Social Media AgeSocial Media Age
  49. 49. Thank You. Jim Rettew Chief Communication Officer American Red Cross Mile High Chapter 303-607-4703 Twitter: redcrossdenver Facebook: redcrossdenver