Jen­nifer Du­val- Smith wrote about the im­por­tance of hav­ing a dig­i­tal cri­sis man­age­ment plan in the last is­sue. Here she de­tails four steps you need to heed.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Jen­nifer Du­val-Smith on dig­i­tal cri­sis man­age­ment.

BUSI­NESSES HAVE al­ways made mis­takes. The dif­fer­ence now is we get to play out our mis­takes in real time, be­fore a mass au­di­ence of foren­sic ex­perts, cached in per­pe­tu­ity. Where con­sumers turn first to search, and search favours the fresh and the vi­ral, com­mu­ni­ca­tors have to be pre­pared for dig­i­tal crises, which gen­er­ally stem from poor prac­tice in cus­tomer ser­vice, gov­er­nance, PR or mar­ket­ing. So here’s how to avoid them.

1. Readi­ness - Set up your teams and pro­to­cols

Dig­i­tal crises erupt rapidly, of­ten out of hours. You need to be able to iden­tify and con­tact your cri­sis team mem­bers quickly. Think up a cou­ple of de­cent crises. You’ll prob­a­bly need a min­i­mum of PR, a com­mu­nity man­ager/ so­cial an­a­lyst, a sub­ject mat­ter ex­pert, and a search spe­cial­ist. Cre­ate a sim­ple ‘team fin­der’ doc­u­ment every­body can take home. The Can­ter­bury earth­quake showed we don’t know what will work, so at­tach mo­bile, land­line, Twit­ter, Face­book and per­sonal email. Also, if a cri­sis is se­ri­ous and pre­dictable, in­volves in­jury, prod­uct re­call or share­holder loss, then hav­ing a ‘dark site’ ready and wait­ing to be up­dated and de­ployed is not overkill.

Treat proac­tive en­gage­ment as the best preven­tion. Your best line of de­fence is the re­spect of a con­nected online com­mu­nity, which will of­ten de­fend you. Iden­tify and de­velop a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with po­ten­tial ad­vo­cates, those ‘me­dia go-to guys’ who are in­flu­en­tial and ac­tive online. If some­one knows you, they may be more in­clined to sup­port you. Con­versely, know your ‘badvocates’. Iden­tify and fol­low to coun­ter­act ar­gu­ments and an­tic­i­pate any mount­ing cam­paign or po­ten­tial ‘hack­tivism’.

Get your house rules in or­der and mod­er­ate ac­cord­ingly. Have poli­cies and ‘play­books’ and en­sure that your so­cial plat­forms clearly state the lan­guage and be­hav­iour that will be tol­er­ated. Con­sider us­ing Face­book’s ‘pro­fan­ity fil­ter’ op­tion.

2. Radar – Lis­ten­ing and de­tec­tion

Don’t get caught un­aware. If some­thing’s hap­pen­ing, make sure you know about it. Put lis­ten­ing and risk as­sess­ment in place. Cre­ate a de­ci­sion tree so that in­for­ma­tion is cat­e­gorised, and es­ca­lated ap­pro­pri­ately. Google/ Twit­ter alerts are slow and of­fer in­suf­fi­cient cov­er­age.

To re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately, you need to eval­u­ate two key fac­tors: the mes­sage and the mes­sen­ger. What is be­ing said? Does the con­tent of the mes­sage pose a threat to the brand? And who is say­ing it? Is the mes­sen­ger in­flu­en­tial and likely to en­tice oth­ers to talk or take ac­tion? Is there a feel­ing of es­ca­la­tion?

3. Re­sponse – is­sues and crises

Com­mu­ni­cate. Up­date, mon­i­tor and mod­er­ate. En­gage in two-way con­ver­sa­tion, and en­sure that other units with so­cial pro­files are briefed to do the same. Stick to the play­book, don’t ar­gue and don’t pick fights. Above all, don’t take a snarky tone or mock the gram­mar of your crit­ics (a la Kit Kat). Al­low your com­mu­nity to come in and de­fend you.

Spec­u­la­tion loves a vac­uum. ‘Show­ing up’ can some­times be suf­fi­cient to stem the snow­balling, es­pe­cially if backed with ac­tion. You are free to put your fact-based point of view for­ward in a rea­son­able man­ner, but be aware peo­ple’s re­sponse can be emo­tional rather than ra­tional, so don’t be­lit­tle.

When faced with a na­tion­wide prod­uct re­call LG Aus­tralia cre­ated a blog “LG re­sponds” fea­tur­ing in­fo­graph­ics, se­rial num­bers, pho­tos and prod­uct de­scrip­tions and videos for con­cerned cus­tomers. This strat­egy earned them praise from tough me­dia crit­ics and con­sumer or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Pull tone deaf or in­sen­si­tive ad­ver­tis­ing, as Nike did fol­low­ing the ar­rest of Os­car Pis­to­rius. And cre­ate con­tent to hu­man­ise and tell your story. New, rel­e­vant share­able con­tent is the only way to tell your story and move un­flat­ter­ing nat­u­ral Google re­sults down the page.

Make sure peo­ple know where to look for in­for­ma­tion. Use the key­words likely to be used by peo­ple search­ing for in­for­ma­tion on your is­sue, even if they’re neg­a­tive. Con­sider in­ter­nal search, op­ti­mis­ing for or­ganic search and paid search. If your demise is via YouTube video, con­sider pur­chas­ing con­tex­tual ad­ver­tise­ments.

If you need to apol­o­gise, be a leader not a politi­cian. “I’m sorry if some peo­ple were of­fended” is not an apol­ogy. An apol­ogy says what you did wrong, why you’re sorry, and why it won’t hap­pen again. In se­ri­ous cases this is a lead­er­ship test and it has to come from the top (for a short mas­ter­class in apol­o­gis­ing, check out The Civil­ian’s re­cent back­down on 10 June).

4. Re­cov­ery and re­build­ing

Where there has been a cri­sis in­volv­ing a breach of trust with a com­pany or brand, the re­build can be slow. It will oc­cur via re­demp­tive ac­tion rather than words. Dra­matic and de­ci­sive ac­tion by lead­er­ship is a key fac­tor in the speed of re­cov­ery. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be on­go­ing along with ac­knowl­edge­ment of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

Take a mo­ment to de­brief and im­ple­ment learn­ings. It’s an easy step to skip, but it’s one of the most im­por­tant. And there’s noth­ing like a bap­tism of fire to make those clear and rel­e­vant.

The new model of cri­sis man­age­ment is def­i­nitely a chal­lenge to com­mu­ni­ca­tors. We need to ac­com­mo­date the im­pact of key trends and tech­nolo­gies, to up­skill in new ar­eas, to ex­er­cise good judg­ment and to de­liver at speed. No pres­sure.




Writ­ten by JEN­NIFER DU­VAL- SMITH Du­val-Smith is the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of So­cial@Ogilvy NZ. For a copy of its cri­sis man­age­ment play­book, email jen­nifer.du­

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