There is no question that social media is becoming a more prominent player in crisis communications. Experts including Leslie Gaines-Ross of Weber Shandwick and Jeremiah Owyang are telling us that preparing for a crisis can help cut the duration, the costs, and in some cases, avoid the actual event itself. In an effort to address the increasing need for organizations to learn how to prepare for crisis with a solid communications strategy, CKSyme.org will turn its attention to this important field over the next few months exclusively.
In a recent survey I did for the Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) on the use of social media in crisis, it was clear that education institutions, as a whole, are better prepared for the operational side of crisis, but are woefully lacking in the important area of reputation and crisis communications.
Our crisis communications training, “Listen, Engage, and Respond,” is based on over 10 years of crisis experience and study. The curriculum pays specific attention to digital applications of crisis communications and includes an all-important reputation piece.
1. Listen. Do you know what’s being said about you online? Monitoring is the important first step. Depending on who you are, you’ll want to monitor a number of searches related to your organization and sector. In a recent presentation to U.S. Sailing, I encouraged attending organizations to sign up for a Twitter account and take a look at some free monitoring programs just to get a feel for what is out there. You need to get online and listen to the community before you can engage them. Twitter is becoming the medium of choice for emergency management. This was echoed in a good read from Dallas Lawrence on preparing your team to use Twitter in crisis. I’ll write more about this in coming weeks.
2. Engage. Once you have your feet wet monitoring and understand how social media works, build your communities. Start with Facebook and Twitter. Then, spread out if you have the inclination and time. Learn how to make Facebook a place where people get relevant information from you that helps them. It’s not about broadcasting. The more you can engage people, the more they will come to your aid in a crisis. Twitter is real-time. Learn how to use it and learn how it differs from Facebook.
3. Respond. The respond piece of our planning curriculum involves authoring a number of documents including a triage ladder for internal response, media relations training, writing a social media policy, setting up a response team, and a number of other tasks. Basically, it prepares you for the onslaught. We promote cross training in crisis response. If a real crisis hits, you’ll want to get all hands on deck, and you’ll want them confidently trained. This piece also includes training, fire drills, and evaluation basics.
Over the next few months, you’ll see us concentrate more on crisis communications in relation to social media topics. It is my hope that you will learn to “be your own media” and confidently face any crisis that comes your way. You’ll hear from me, and you’ll hear from others who know a lot more than I do. Stay tuned.