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Social Media causes disasters? Only if you have a bad mindset and worse crisis comms plan.

Great little post by Sherrilynne Starkie about social media getting the blame for PR disasters. An interesting and quick read and it shows that some PR types are a) drama queens and b) not grasping the full possibilities of social media…

To quote from the blog post:

Seventy per cent of public relations and communications agencies cite social media as a major cause of communications crises, according to a survey conducted by Dynamic Markets, a research consulting firm.  A hundred senior PR professionals took part in the survey early this year which revealed:

  • 24% said traditional media had ignited crisis situations
  • 34% said bloggers had been to blame
  • 24% said crises had started in online social networks
  • 8% said discussions in online forums had been the root of crises

Now we’ll skip the definition of ‘crisis’ (a few bad blogger reviews or comments does not a crisis make) and the fact that 100 isn’t a big sample.

Nothing else there is a problem. If a crisis (now I’m doing it!) breaks online at say 10.30am. If you are on your game, you can have the issue dealt with and turned into a non-story before close of play that day which means you could be neutering the tale for the next day traditional press or heavily minimising it.

Also, let’s be real: a lot of comments will be seen by a handful of people, you don’t need to engage every single one of them. (Confession, I do like to engage every one just to be thorough, but you don’t have to).

The point being: an online crisis should be planned for as part of any decent crisis communication or crisis PR plans. Also, when someone starts moaning, have a response ready either factual-based (“Sorry you’re wrong. Here’s the facts…”) or customer-engaged minded (“Hi, let’s look into that for you…”) and that begins to turn the negativity down.

There’s been plenty of online disasters – Vodafone handled their Twitter problem well, Nestle not so much in their spat with Greenpeace, Amazon did terribly in their gay row because they took so long to respond – and there will be plenty more.

The trick is to remember that social media didn’t invent moaning. People did that before, but now PRs have a chance to see what people are saying and get in touch to correct the situation. That’s not a crisis, that’s an opportunity.

Free Social Media/Digital PR tip: You can only engage if you know people are talking about you, so take advantage of the free tools out there to keep on top of what people are saying. You don’t need to respond within seconds but you do need to respond within hours. Also make sure you have quick and approved access to information you can put online to counter online claims. The old model of three days to approve a statement doesn’t work online.


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