The most frequent questions I encountered in 2011 included: what should we do when a detrimental story about our company breaks online? How do you respond to social media posts or comments from angry customers, or even disgruntled employees? Or do you avoid response and consider deleting comments? Worse, how do you stop the spread of misinformation, or blatantly false claims about your CEO, company or its products?
It used to be that the worst-case scenario for a business going through a crisis was a story appearing on an evening network newscast or in the morning paper. Today, the greater risk is what happens to that story, or any unfavorable story for that matter, when it is broadcasted across social networks. In the era of social media, not only does the public have the opportunity to say, report and offer opinions at will, but they are able to do so without any type of factual check and balance. And all of that information lives online in perpetuity, eroding reputations that took years to build.
A quick search for “crisis communication” on Mashable turns up a lengthy list of situations and case studies that played out over the past year: Taco Bell being under fire for the ingredients in its ground beef, the reaction to NetFlix’s price increase, and there were plenty of political figures who had their issues. As you can imagine, the list is quite extensive.
During 2011, GroundFloor Media saw a large increase in the number of clients that were looking for answers to the “what if” social media crisis questions, and even a few clients who experienced the intersection of crisis communications and social media firsthand. We expect this trend to continue in 2012 as more and more individuals, companies and their customers continue to expand and engage in social networks.
In December, GroundFloor Media launched its proprietary Online War Room™ to help prepare businesses and organizations for scenarios that can, and will, occur on social networks. This secure tool allows our Rapid Response and social media teams to work with clients to customize training sessions and mimic online crisis and issues management situations and conversations, in real time. We all know that preparation is key in any crisis situation, and the Online War Room allows our clients to discover what they need to include in their social media response plan, test their existing response plans, refine the processes for reacting and responding to negative sentiment and misinformation, and even put executives more at ease with communicating in the social media space.
In most cases, the first 120 minutes of a crisis can determine the public’s perception of an organization, and social networks exponentially emphasize the need to be prepared for any number of public conversations and crisis-related scenarios. What are your company’s plans to effectively manage its online reputation in 2012.
~ Jim Licko