CRISIS COMMUNICATION & SOCIAL MEDIA: EVEN WHEN IT’S NOT YOUR CRISIS, IT COULD BE

by Nancy Myrland on December 20, 2012

 

Crisis Communications in Social MediaTimes of tragedy seem to bring about the best, the worst and the oddest behavior.

The past few years have brought us some of the most powerful communication tools of our times. We thought we had mass communication down pat until Social Media came on the scene. We were humming along, very carefully plotting out messages that we would then place in…

  • Print
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Outdoor
  • On telelemarketers’ scripts
  • In salespeoples’ heads
  • …and a myriad of other places.

We knew exactly when these messages would run, what people were likely doing, watching or listening to when our message was presented, and all was good.

ENTER SOCIAL MEDIA

The world, thankfully, has never been the same. I grew up in sales and marketing learning about the media mentioned above, but I find the addition of Social Media to our marketing mix exhilarating, interesting, life-changing, freeing and effective…..when used correctly, that is. I study it constantly, and I see it used in many different ways.

Regardless of all the different ways Social Media are used today, this is nothing compared to what we will see in the future as our minds adapt and bend even more to innovate and advance communication.

Recent national tragedies have made me think about this “art” of thinking and communicating effectively in times of crisis, and how we, as marketers, business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs, executives, leaders of education and all communicators must be vigilant when it comes to crises…..even others’ crises.

Even though it isn’t your tragedy, event, mishap or crisis that has suddenly taken the spotlight, it doesn’t mean it isn’t your responsibility to be prepared. We can no longer take a pass on being aware of how we should operate in others’ situations as well as our own. Whether we plan for it to, or not, all of our actions have the potential to become intertwined.

WHAT TO DO?

Among other things…

  • We need to have conversations with ourselves, with everyone in our organization and with those who represent us regarding how we will, or will not, react in times of heightened emotion and awareness.
  • With every situation that is attracting a great deal of attention or emotion, both internally and externally, we must sit down immediately, either in-person or virtually, with all parties responsible for communicating, and ask ourselves if there are implications for our business.
  • We must then decide what our tone, our conversations and our messages will look and sound like.
  • What is acceptable?
  • What language do we stay away from?
  • Who do we need to communicate with immediately?
  • How often do we need to communicate with each party?
  • Does our product or service have anything to do with this situation?
  • Should we refrain from connecting our company, product or service to this situation?
  • What are all the possible ways we could find ourselves connected to this situaion in the next few days, weeks and months?

THREE VERY DIFFERENT EXAMPLES

1) Saturday, as I was running errands, I heard a commercial for a radio station that used a tongue-in-cheek reference to making sure you tune in for all of the up-to-the-minute, end-of-the-world news you need as we approach the Mayan End of the World. The words annihilation of the human race were also used in this brief 60-second commercial.

At any other time, I might have listened with amusement, then dismissed the message. Saturday was different. It struck me that those words might be a bit raw to some listeners only two days after a national tragedy that took the lives of many human beings, most of them children. Knowing the owner of the station, and knowing these messages are prepared and scheduled well in advance of the day, I sent him a quick email, letting him know I had just heard this message, and giving him the heads up there might be people out there who might find that message a bit inappropriate for the time. I didn’t want it to come back to haunt him when they meant no harm. As is his style, he kindly replied before the end of the day, thanking me for my email, then passed it along to his station managers to discuss.

2) The other day, the well-known shoe manufacturer, Dansko Footwear, decided to place a rather odd message, connecting their footwear to the shooting tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut. There were people who thought it was inappropriate for them to use this tragedy to advance their brand, and the Interweb erupted with discussion. More about that on Techolu.

Dansko inserts foot in mouth

3) In 2011, during the Egyptian uprising, while scores of Egyptians were being murdered in their streets, the iconic brand, Kenneth Cole, decided to connect itself to that tragedy by promoting its upcoming line of Spring clothing.  Kenneth Cole himself Tweeted this controversial message. I wrote more about that in this post about Kenneth Cole.

Kenneth Cole's innappropriate Tweet during crisis in Egypt

BOTTOM LINE

Think!

Think before tragedies and incidents occur.

Anticipate all the what-ifs.

Ask yourself what all the potential implications of your message are, and decide if it’s worth it.

Get the right people in the right positions who know how to think critically and strategically, not just opportunistically.

If you’d like to read more about this topic, I wrote another post for your review:

Social Media: Are You Prepared For Negative Publicity?

As always, if you need my help with Social Media and Marketing training, coaching and strategy, I can be contacted at nancy@myrlandmarketing.com, or any of these places.

 

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2 comments
joshhumble
joshhumble

Great post, Nancy. While we're all human and prone to error, I feel there's so much of this out there. It's simply about awareness of both our own feelings, and what's going on around us. We can't let too much thought paralyze us, but mindfulness of the big picture should always accompany our actions. That's what saves both brands and people from the disparaging PR nightmares we continue to witness.

NancyMyrland
NancyMyrland moderator

 @joshhumble Hi Josh...thanks for stopping by.  Yes, all of us have the potential to slip every now and then, and say something we wish we hadn't. Sometimes those slips are easily forgiven because we've built social capital in these spaces.  As you state, "mindfulness of the big picture should always accompany our actions."  This is very important.  In some of these larger mishaps, it appears they've been planned, or the person posting was deliberate in sharing those thoughts, which is what makes them disappointing, and what often fuels the fire of public distaste.  I'm afraid we will continue to have case studies such as these in the coming years as the ease of communication continues.  Again, thanks for stopping by @joshhumble  !

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