Alterian recently presented two research pieces on crisis communication – cloud outages and social media driven PR crises. The conclusion in both cases was clear; when it comes to your crisis plan, you need to be proactive, and your reaction must be lightning fast. The only way to do this is tap into all of the resources available to you.

Even though it may be scary that people can quickly and easily spread bad news and negative opinions about your company online, it is no reason to bury your head in the sand and hope that social media will just go away. Be mindful of the dangers, but don’t forget to harness the opportunities.

clip_image001Social media now provides brands with a live barometer – a data source they can freely tap into – to help them stay in front of potential issues and identify problems before they erupt into a full-blown crisis. Companies that implement strategic listening programs are proactively (and successfully) monitoring issues like product failure, customer service problems and brand image challenges to minimize the damage these issues can pose.

Wilson Raj’s recently published eBook – The “How To” of Reputation Monitoring gives examples of some of the smart ways brands are incorporating social media into their crisis planning. He explains that brands need to ask the right questions, establish priorities based on the likelihood that an event will occur, and imagine scenarios and triggers for those potential crises.

The book outlines a four step approach to incorporating social media into reputation and crisis monitoring:

1. Listen (determine keywords, identify triggers for key events, establish your baseline)

2. Interpret (analyze and interpret social data)

3. Prepare & React

4. Monitor (establish KPIs and goals, use social data to measure the effectiveness of your crisis plan)

More and more companies are implementing monitoring programs to help them prepare for and deal with reputation events. However, many realize after a crisis has occurred, that they needed to be listening more closely to the right conversations to react quickly – and identify the issue before it gains momentum. When companies combine listening programs for crisis identification with listening programs for improved crisis communication strategy and optimization, the rewards truly transform corporate communications and risk management.