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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  • Need to Prepare
    Pare down the list of potential issues by identifying those most likely to occur or for which the
    organization most needs to be prepared.
  • Situational Assessment – The Crisis Communications Team will assess the situation, determine facts, and begin
    delegation. Questions to help devise appropriate crisis communications response, include, but are not limited to:
    a. Who is the crisis communications lead person responsible for ensuring all steps are taken? (Most likely the
    director of communications.)
    b. What is the situation? What will happen next?
    c. Who on staff needs to be involved?
    d. What immediate steps need to be taken?
    e. What is known and who already knows it?
    1. All crises should be reported to a supervisor and the president & CEO
    2. Only the chief spokesperson and back-up spokespeople are authorized to
    release information to the media and to the public. All other staff, board and
    committee members should be professional and helpful to the media by
    connecting them with the spokespeople, but will neither speak to the media,
    nor provide any information.
  • Use an ‘authentic’, human voice – as opposed to applying corporate‐speak – as social media will not tolerate a faceless, mechanical approach
    Stick to the classic spokesperson approach
    the more senior the better
    the more he or she recognizes the issue and concerns the better
    the more human and less air‐brushed the better
    the more prepared with messages and trained to speak to media (or through social media) the better
    Before the Crisis
    Create an Influencer Map to know where your promoters and detractors live online
    Consider influencer engagement campaigns during non-crisis times to develop relationships that could be revisited if needed
    After the Crisis Hits
    Engage influencer in your rapid response efforts as needed: be personal
    Monitor pre-identified detractor sites and apply messaging strategy to determine appropriate response
    Before the Crisis
    Develop crisis messaging and adapt it to social media venues
    Identify and train marcomstaff for social media
    Set up online crisis collaboration site
    Design and build a crisis dark site
    Before the Crisis
    Develop your brand’s presence & voice on the social Web –a corporate blog, Twitter handle, Facebook page, YouTube channel…
    After the Crisis HitsoActively update home page or dark site
    oConsider using video to deliver a human message
    oIf corporate, use social web platforms to respond –these are most effective when they are well established and active prior a crisis
    Before the CrisisoBuild list of keywords (negative and positive) to use for SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization/Search Engine Marketing)
    Explore leveraging or creating online advertising
    Identify potential multimedia responses (photo, video) and key players necessary to create them
    After the Crisis Hits
    Deploy a keyword buy across major search engines
    Create and optimize a variety of multimedia content to help tell your story in multiple ways
    Advertise online with crisis messaging (as appropriate)
  • According to the Twitter account’s bio: “This page exists to get BP’s message and mission statement out into the twitterverse!”
    Those last three words were an understatement
    Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communications + Technology in Concord, Calif., says “He’s not attacking what BP is doing to cap the oil leak. He’s attacking the way BP is communicating. Would this have been started if BP had done good public relations? They have made a lot of mistakes, and that created an environment that was just fertile for something like @BPGlobalPR to capture people’s attention.”
    The lack of a social media presence prior to the crisis also hampered BP’s ability to respond to @BPGlobalPR.
    “BP waited until the crisis hit to engage in social media,” says Kevin Dugan, APR, director of social marketing for Empower MediaMarketing in Cincinnati. “While they turned their website into a deep resource of information, it didn’t matter. Conversations were already taking place on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites.”
    The time to learn about the use of social media is before a crisis strikes.
  • “With the oil spill, you have an engineering challenge that has never been dealt with before. The technology doesn’t exist,” Holtz says. “At the same time, you have university engineers, engineers in other industries, hackers who might know something about this stuff. If you ask them to help solve the problem and offer a reward, what do you have to lose?”
    BP should have immediately posted the HD video images and indicated how they were deriving their flow estimates. We live in a fully transparent world and it’s always better to point the finger at yourself rather than wait a few days to have someone else point the finger at you This is counter intuitive to how we’ve done business for the past centuries with the legal mindset of trying to keep the bodies buried. However with social media you have to assume the bodies will be exhumed quickly.
    Attempt to humanize BP. They should have flip cameras with their employees down on the Gulf showing what they are doing to help the region. People that work for BP are human, try to humanize BP rather than continuing to be simply a hated logo by so many. Not everyone that works for BP is evil. They should showcase, via video, real people accessing claims to give a sense for the process.  Also, ask for feedback, listen and react accordingly.
    The old paradigm of broadcasting to persuade is being challenged. BP's communicators took to YouTube and created what seemed like television ads. They would have been better served by attempting to stimulate a conversation, providing a realistic portrait of the work being done, or engaging in a live, viewer-centric Q&A session. Overall, the BP website and spokespeople lacked a human or colloquial tone. Read more:
  • 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