New Year, New Crisis Plan

When was the last time you reviewed your crisis response plan?

Whether they would admit or not, many organizations either do not have a crisis response plan or have one that is barely, if ever, reviewed. In the changing political and global context of today, having a dynamic crisis response plan that aligns with your business and is integrated across channels is critical to your operations.

In my experience, crises have a higher tendency to occur as a result of actions taken by an organization or in response to their mission or philosophy. You may, without realizing it, trigger a crisis by your actions – the releasing of a statement, a comment, a change in direction, an exit from a country, an issue with a program, funding, etc.

Rule number one with a crisis is that it will be incredibly fast-moving and will involve both digital and traditional media. Rule number two is that the issue that becomes a crisis will shock you – it will not be what you expect. Rule number three is that the press will seek comment from anyone with a relationship with the organization, past and present.

Some important tips:

  • Ensure senior leadership is committed and involved in the development of your plan (or updating your existing plan) and is actively engaged in live drills across the organization at least twice a year.
  • Be ready to respond and take control of the message with prepared spokespeople – not associated with the organization – who can speak on your behalf and to have supporters counter accusations on digital or start counter campaigns if needed.
  • Respond quickly – do not sit on the issue or bury your head in the sand – the longer you wait to respond, the more intense the crisis will become. Publicly provide action steps that you plan to take, the timeline in which you will take them and keep apologies short, and only apologize once.
  • Avoid becoming social shy – several recent crises showed that organizations and individuals tend to avoid digital when the heat is turned up, locking comments or maintaining scheduled posts throughout. You cannot – no matter how negative the comments or the campaigns or the memes – avoid your digital platforms.
  • Monitor digital, emails and calls so that any press that contact you are directed to the media team taking charge of vetting incoming calls and one spokesperson who had previously been trained and selected as the crisis spokesperson.
  • Stick with your talking points each time your spokesperson is interviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the facts. If an error has been made, admit it and state the necessary steps to ensure it will not happen again in the future – and make those steps publicly known.

The more visible you are, the more others may try to use your visibility for their own objectives and to advance their own agendas – for both positive and negative reasons. Recognizing the power of the collective and engaging with it will enable your brand to stay flexible and aware of changing trends and sentiments. But being prepared, and ensuring your leadership is prepared, is your ultimate strategy.


A Global Social Media Lesson from Disney

Walt Disney Japan has had a rough day on social.

The latest was an unfortunate tweet sent on the 70th anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing which translated to “congratulations on a not special day”.

How can you avoid tweet trouble on Twitter or for that matter, how can you ensure your global brand channels are engaged with local culture and customs in your key markets?

Hire for local context. Ensure your social media talent is well versed in the culture and customs of the country for the channels they are managing – either by hiring locally if you have a decentralized structure or hiring someone with work experience in that country.

Establish clear goals. Understand what business goals you are trying to achieve with your channels in each of your markets and how that ties into your content, campaigns and promotions.

Understand your audience. Do the research by developing personas to determine your audience given your business goals. Determine how and where your audience engages on social and how often. Plan to keep your engagement with them at their preferred level, not at your brand’s comfort level. Make note of important holidays and dates within the country in your editorial calendar.

Educate on brand values. It is essential that your social staff understand your brand values, your positioning and your overall strategy so that they can develop and manage content that aligns with your overall image. It also helps to prevent any “going rogue” scenarios. Educate continually, not just once.

Develop and train on protocols. Create protocols and crisis plans for your social channels with your social team to ensure it is clear and that there are response plans in place that will minimize any reputational damage.

Your CEO on Social

Recently, Weber Shandwick released their Socializing Your CEO report which audits the online presence of CEOs globally. The audit found that CEOs are starting to engage and feel comfortable on social media.

Your CEO can be a powerful addition to your social media strategy. The key is to integrate your executive’s social media presence within the overall brand’s social media strategy. By doing so, it will help prevent one from overpowering the other.

Even though your CEO might be an established brand within his industry offline, social media will potentially reach a much wider segment of your audience globally, therefore, you’ll need to start building your CEO’s credibility out of the gate.

One approach I have used is to create a dedicated CEO account on Twitter as the channel of choice for their voice. The dedicated account is used to express personal opinions, theories and expertise to lead and guide the social discussion within the brand’s issue area.

Crossover with the brand would occur with the sharing of content on the organization’s Facebook page and Twitter account during high visibility events, news or project/product launches.

To start engaging and leading the discussion from the dedicated account, consider the following tactics:

  • sharing organization research, news, updates and new projects;
  • speaking at a conference: share salient talking points, impressions, and highlights;
  • participating in a panel discussion: engage with other members pre and post panel, sharing thoughts and insights;
  • curating other research, news or statements from organizations in the same industry, and
  • starting the discussion by asking direct questions of other leaders/organizations on trending topic areas.

Ideally your approach will be a mix of the above. As you and your CEO get more comfortable, the more you can curate content and start to push discussion on issues or issue areas that may not have entered into the social conversation.

By pushing the envelope and being seen as an initiator and innovator of content and discussion, you will attract more followers and will increase your overall social media engagement over time.

Harnessing the Power of Social Media

Last month, as a keynote speaker at CSC’s 2015 Conference, I spoke to an audience of teachers on how to harness the power of social media to build their own personal brand. Although their students are active on social, they had yet to really maximize their own potential to expand and share their knowledge. With Facebook now reaching 1.4 billion users worldwide, Twitter 288 million and LinkedIn 347 million the possibilities are endless no matter your age or profession. Below are a few tips to help you harness the power of social media:

Start by defining your area of expertise. Many find this one difficult. Start with your profession and work from there. You may have many interests. The goal is to try to narrow it down to one thing first and expand from there.

Choose what social platforms you will focus your energies on. Determine who your audience is. Is it fellow teachers or professors or maybe researchers? Discover where your potential audience spends their time on social and establish your presence there. Do not try to be on every social platform. It will dilute your efforts and leave you stressed out trying to manage all your profiles. Start with one or two.

Create new profiles or update your existing profiles. Reinvention is the name of the game here. If you already have profiles, re-engineer them to focus on your expertise. You can do that by updating your profile or by sharing content. If you are just starting out, explore the social landscape within your industry first. Follow influencers to learn how they interact, how often they share and what types of content they share.

Start by sharing content. Share content in your industry that you find interesting. If you find it interesting, others will as well. Get into the habit of doing so daily or every other day until you feel comfortable with it.

Spot trends and start trends. Look for interesting conversations, challenges or solutions that you can share on social from your everyday experiences related to your area of focus. That’s trend spotting. Overtime, this will create buzz. Eventually, you will want to also share your own points of views and experiences either through blogging, publishing on LinkedIn, Medium or in industry publications.

A Front Row Seat to Your Brand

Social media. We are all using it daily. There is nothing like the rush of increasing likes and follows. But what if you are global? How do you bring your in-country work to social media in real-time and weave it effectively into your global brand story?

I was asked to introduce a first-time social media strategy to highlight the work of a humanitarian organization’s projects and stakeholders in Asia and Africa. The desire – and the ultimate challenge – was to bring country projects and stories to the forefront of all online communications.

Any visitor to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube sites should know within seconds where they work and the nature of their work. Normally? Not a problem. However, the eight countries we were targeting were the poorest and least secure of any in the world. Getting information out quickly and developing a means to do so was made that much harder by daily technology and communication challenges that you and I take for granted. So what did we do?

Improve staffing. We moved from using an external agency to bringing in a social media coordinator on staff to improve the communication flow between the communications team and country offices. We also bridged the time zone gap by placing an intern in Europe – on the same time zone as Africa and just a few hours difference with Asia.

Open channels of communication between country officers/representatives. The onus lies with communications staff to do this. Once a week contact is preferable either via Skype or email. Your social media staff and country offices should always be connected via Skype for ease of access.

Train one or two members in each country office on taking video clips and photos. Encourage them to take videos when in the field and at meetings. At this stage, quality will come by encouraging quantity. The training can be added on to a larger meeting at headquarters to save on travel and budget expenditures.

Create a dedicated country YouTube (or Vimeo), Flickr and Instagram account for uploading to avoid file transfers to headquarters.

Encourage your country staff to engage with your social media channels by sharing content, liking, commenting and re-tweeting where appropriate and interacting with each other on lessons learned in the field. Your staff will become more comfortable using social media while expanding awareness in-country.

Over a six-month period, we were able to weave in stories of our work in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia and South Africa by actively engaging country staff. Through continual communication between the social media team and the country teams, a seamless communication channel began to open enabling us to promote our work in real time and to create story themes between countries.