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Is there a crisis in those 90 million tweets?

March 4, 2011

There are 90 million tweets a day on Twitter. Clearly, Twitter is the tool for spreading news. It’s also a tool for spreading bad news.

Listening is not a crisis plan?.It’s the cost of entry in thinking about a crisis, but it’s not a plan.

Listening simply means awareness of a crisis. But listening is just a clever use of software, responding takes people, and a plan.

Here are some simple steps:

  1. Identify, assemble and organize a core crisis team. The team needs to versed in the brand, and ready to act immediately. On the client side, identify people (not always the CEO) who are in charge in a crisis. CEO’s are important for talking about a crisis, but they aren’t always perfect for leading a crisis response.
  2. The team needs to represent the various disciplines of the brand to address a variety of situations. If the crisis is big enough, it might take TV. Consider that Domino’s ended up filming a response. A brand might need in-store POP, print, social media, and web.
  3. If the team is from the agency, it needs the authority to act. The time spent waiting for approvals could be costly to the reputation.
  4. The brand and team should conduct “what if?” planning sessions using people from various parts of the company to identify the various types of risks. (And yes, everything is on the table. What’s your brand’s Domino’s pizza moment?
  5. Does the company have a written social media policy? They are critical in potential legal steps that might be taken to advise employees about actions the company could take if an employee willfully commits an act that damages the brand.
  6. Develop a crisis communications resource kit that will have a range of materials, from phone trees to media lists and release templates to background documents.
  7. Conduct a crisis simulation training drill. Include live scenarios for the team, with the chance to sharpen response times.
  8. Conduct media training and other crisis management skills for spokespeople.
  9. Assess existing electronic capabilities and fill in the gaps where they exist. Does the brand have a presence on Facebook and Twitter? How about a YouTube Channel? These places can be useful if needed (Domino’s started a Twitter feed after the crisis).
  10. Establish a dark site that has easy to use content management capabilities that we can take live when/if it is needed to address issues.

People like to share. If you’re not convinced of that, stop reading this blog.

Really. Stop.

If you’re still here, understand this: people will share without using any judgment. Alternatively, people not connected to your brand might say bad things. And the people who say bad things might have a platform. This doesn’t have to be a panic situation. But when pressed, wouldn’t it be nice to know your brand can be pressed into responding? Seems like a better strategy than hoping things blow over.

I’ not a crisis expert. This week though, I sat and listened to crisis experts at Eric Mower and Associates talk about crisis planning. These people  know what they’re doing.

Because listening and knowing the list are only the first steps. The next step is getting smart people on the team who’ve managed a crisis in the past. And can step in and manage one in the future.


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