Last week on Twitter, David Thulin wondered:
"who will first fully use the power of interactive Social Media to handle a large corporate crisis"
Great question. Followed quickly by - how?
If you haven't already written social media into your crisis plans, here are a couple of ideas on the how:
- Find the windows. Before the story is written, it is Twittered, or posted or boarded.
If the issue is a big one, our impatient, chatty online talk leaders won't start with a long-form blog post or a call to their editors, they'll test the waters. See what other people know. Show a few of their cards. These short-form - what the heck is going on(?) - snips are a window into how your story is being told and who is telling it.
For most consumer products, Twitter is an easy entry into that chat. Simple tools like Tweetscan let you search (on demand or all the time) your brand by name, product, etc. Have an all-common-nouns name? You may have to follow your brand followers by setting up a Twitter account and listening to people already talking about your industry or easier-named competitors.
(If you're building a case for a champion, Billy's got lots of Twitter basics over on B&A's blog)
For B2B products, the medium changes with the industry. A lot of IT gurus, for example, still use closed boards - ones that will be completely worth the registration fees for you to listen in on.
- Empower trustees of the brand. Ok, you've found someone tweeting about about The Crisis. What now?
Luckily, you've prepared in advance by tagging 3 - 4 storytellers within your organization. Their actual job titles don't matter. You're looking for savvy users of the very technologies you're targeting (online communities, blogs, etc.) who are passionate about the brand and have excellent judgment.
This online response team is tasked with three things: (1) understanding the shared brand story (what we stand for, who we are, who we serve), (2) understanding the current crisis or issue (knowing how to get the briefing and what questions to ask), and (3) using their best judgment to engage online talk leaders.
Once activated, their job is to talk to people who are already talking about the crisis or who are likely to. Ask questions, share perspectives, talk to real people like real people. Yes, you can quote me.
Way too scary? Another option is to engage people just to drive to a more controlled event. Maybe your product development leader or CEO is willing to field questions from customers, bloggers, other conversation media makers. Use the response team to drive people to that call / webcast / chat room.
- Create a credible voice. If the crisis is significant, eventually someone is going to have to talk to the masses without the filter of traditional media. The chef-ed up quotes in press releases and no comments are going to need to be replaced with a genuine interaction with a credible leader.
There are easy ways to do this. And hard ways. A hard way is propping up your already beleaguered chief spokesperson to talk to a bunch of people she may consider ankle biters and watch the recriminations flow.
An easier way is to already have a credible voice in social media. Newsgator is the latest brand (following Comcast, Southwest, etc.) to use a social media persona to interact with real customers. Say you tweet about wanting a Newsgator widget. Newsgator will track you down and find out what kind to inform their market-driven product development.
Or, looking at it in a more traditional way - support a chief blogger (or committee of bloggers). Someone already ensconced in talking about the company and to the customer long before a crisis hits.
Lauryn spotted this AdWeek article with some great corporate blogger examples.
- And, don't forget the golden rules: Don't lie (actual lies, fake email accounts, faux online personas, etc.). Don't send press releases (you wouldn't believe how many of those I actually receive). We're people. You are, too.
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