Crisis Management

Changing Technologies and Behaviours: The Social Media Imperative


Crisis communications practitioners don’t have a choice: they must integrate social networks into their planning or risk having their response to any incident become totally irrelevant.

It’s fairly simple: you move at the speed of your audience – the speed of social networks – or you won’t be relevant; and you must use the tools your audience uses (i.e.: mobile devices) or you might not even be heard.

These new rules apply to emergency managers, business continuity planners and crisis communicators. Social listening is an imperative and an essential requirement for successfully managing a response or a crisis. (Here are some further thoughts on that)

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This means a truly comprehensive crisis communications plan must now include five key components – a fifth P to add to the traditional four:

  1. Procedures: the step-by-step “playbook” that will tell your people (even at 3 a.m.) how to proceed must be simple, flexible, easy to implement, and must include delegation of authority to get the ball rolling fast.
  2. People: the folks who make it work – how they are trained and what skills they need. How many team members do you need in your crisis cell to sustain your response?
  3. Preparation: one key component of this includes pre-approved messaging. Using strategic and targeted crisis communications techniques (such as message mapping, check out this great video).
  4. Practice: A plan untested is a plan unproven and probably destined to fail. Train your people relentlessly – and not just your primary team but alternates as well. In fact, everyone should receive some basic instructions on how to deal with the media/social media posts and the public.
  5. And the newest, Platforms: social networks and software that help you manage your response across multiple communications channels as speedily as possible. This includes: what tools do you need to monitor social networks? And then engage? How to issue emails to hundreds of reporters, post on your website and on your social media accounts, all at once? There are technologies that allow this kind of simultaneous blast of information. They are now an essential part of the crisis communicator’s arsenal.

You need all this to occupy the public space as soon as your reputation, your very survival is threatened. The five pieces of the crisis communications puzzle are the only elements that will allow the picture of your successful response to emerge.

Get social … get with the times!

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