Archive for November 11th, 2009

How social do you want your crisis management to be?

Nearly every article written on the role of social media in crisis management overlooks the hundreds of crises managed by organisations every year that no-one outside of a very small management team ever hears about. However, that’s a topic for another day because we’ve found a very good article by Euan Semple, on the Internal Comms Hub, on the importance of incorporating social media into your crisis management plans.

Euan makes a good point when he says: “When you have an unpredictable situation the distributed nature and inherent spontaneity of social media is just what you need.” That’s absolutely true when you need to get a message out to as broad a population as possible, as quickly as possible.

But good crisis management planning should increase the predictability of most situations facing organisations today, and the likelihood that you need to alert a whole country to a problem is very, very small. There aren’t really that many people in the world who will ever have to deal with a tsunami, earthquake, flood or terrorist attack.

So while it’s important to understand how social media works, and how that can help or hinder you in your crisis management efforts, it’s probably more important at the planning stage to understand how it fits with your organisation’s overall identity, and your existing relationships with your audiences both on- and off-line. At the end of the day, we’re still talking about real people (you and your colleagues) talking to other real people (the rest of the world). Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t change that.

If you’re using a facebook fan page as a one-way channel to push information out to a customer base, a sudden switch to two-way crisis communication is going to create more problems than it solves because that’s not what your audience is coming there for.

Social media is the great communication equaliser in that it levels the information playing-field for both organisations and their stakeholders. This also means that cranks, charlatans, hackers and general trouble-makers get to enjoy the power shift as well. In the midst of a crisis do you have the physical resources available to tackle these head-on? Probably not. Can you rely on any social media platform to self-regulate itself into a rational state of mind? Probably, eventually. In the timeframe you need it to? Probably not.