Last Friday GroundFloor Media was thrilled to once again serve as one of the main sponsors of the annual Boulder Chamber social media event. The panel and subsequent breakout sessions brought together many of the brightest social media minds in order to educate and counsel local business professionals on the latest evolution in the emerging media landscape. Building upon the “101” lessons of the Boulder Chamber’s 2009 social media event, topics at this year’s event ranged from how to build a social media strategy and best practices in corporate blogging, to getting started with SEO and geotagging for retail businesses.
The event was a true testament to how far social media has evolved in the past year. It was also evident just how important it has become for businesses to not only focus on unique content creation, but also plan for the day when a direct or industry-related crisis may threaten to tarnish a previously unblemished reputation.
Whether you’re just getting started in social media or have been entrenched in it for awhile, we wanted to share some of our favorite crisis and issues management planning tips based on the insightful real-world input of the event’s panel discussion.
Have a Crisis Plan—Large or small, comprehensive or merely top-line, it is imperative that a business of any size put pen to paper to create a social media crisis plan. For example, who will blog, tweet and post on behalf of your organization when a crisis hits? Is the person who mans the social media channels during a crisis the same person who is involved in social media on a day-to-day level? Derek Olson, vice president of Foraker, likened social media crisis training to that of a first responder—countless hours go into prepping emergency personnel and that same approach should not be overlooked when it comes to preparing those who will handle social media triage for your brand.
Listen Before Reacting—The crisis/issues management panelists all agreed that a vital planning step is to decide how you will monitor the Web for either a quick-spreading or slow-building crisis, and encouraged attendees to use a combination of free and paid tools depending on budget to listen and track buzz. The favorite monitoring tools among the group included Google Alerts, TweetScan, Radian 6 and Meltwater Buzz. A primary reason to listen and analyze what is being said before jumping in is to make sure you will be responding to the right issues. For example, it is probably not worth the time or resources it requires to respond to a few rogue forum comments. However, if an influential person on Twitter begins retweeting a damaging story or recurring theme and you determine the issue has significant “legs” based on the people who are pushing out the story, it is most likely in your best interest to put your response plan into action.
Trust and Transparency is Vital—Daily Camera Executive Editor Kevin Kaufman did not mince words when asked about businesses responding to a crisis. It became clear that during times of strife, journalists tend to believe that PR consultants and company executives are speaking in carefully crafted talking points and statements. So, how do you ensure accurate, positive messaging about your brand or service is being shared during a crisis without being perceived as canned and rehearsed? While the president is conducting interviews with traditional media outlets, Kaufman and the other panelists agreed that you should activate your already engaged social media “community” to talk candidly about their experiences with your company. In addition, CBS4 assignment editor Misty Montano shared a first-person account of how fast the newsroom is moving to stay one step ahead of its competition during a crisis. She encouraged businesses to use all of their online resources to keep updated information flowing during a crisis, and stressed that smart companies post information—often in the form of a press release—to the company website during a situation so the media has access to the latest (and most accurate) details.
Even if you do not have a social media crisis plan in place today, spending just a few minutes thinking about a plan of attack is a step in the right direction. If you are curious on how your company stacks up, answer the poll question below to find out where you fall on the planning scale.