While I don’t consider myself a “Crisis Communications Expert”, I’ve certainly been orchestrating and participating in communications plans for a couple of decades and I’ve got some thoughts to share. I invite you to add your own experience and recommendations in the comments.
Consider what a crisis might mean for your organization. Is it a digital security breach of customer’s sensitive information or a customer who suffers a fatal heart attack in store? Perhaps you’ll have to cope with a major event like an earthquake or, sadly, something equivalent to the rioting that happened in Vancouver after Game 7. Whatever you imagine is only the beginning. You must be prepared to adapt to the crisis that actually happens.
Preparation is key as you won’t have time to make a plan once disaster strikes. Make sure everyone in your organization knows who’s on the Crisis Communication team and who is authorized to act as official spokesperson. Ideally the spokesperson and their understudies have had some formal media training to know how to deliver difficult news in a calm and informative manner.
Another aspect of this is the all important contact list. We’re no longer in a era where folks have a single phone number. Where can they be reached by phone? On cel? On Twitter? Through Facebook? In a crisis, the team onsite must try every means of reaching those who can respond in an official capacity. All these forms of communication can feel like unnecessary redundancy but communication systems can break down. Telephone lines and Internet connections can be severed. Cel towers can be overloaded. Who knows, in the worse incidents we may have to resort to morse code by lantern light!
Next comes the mental shift of modern communication. Organizations can no longer rely on strategies to “manage the message” through official statements and press conferences. Today, everyone in the building has the potential to be a reporter through their smart phone. You can’t control what people share on Twitter and Facebook but you must make certain that your company has an official voice through every possible channel.
With real time coverage from multiple points of view enhanced by photos and video perception becomes a tricky part of the equation. Was that a rioter pulling someone’s arm aggressively or an innocent bystander tugging the same individual out of harm’s way?
Social media gives authority to the Citizen Reporter who can share whatever’s happening around them. But at what point does that evolve into Citizen Surveillance (a topic eloquently considered by Alexandra Samuel) or worse devolve into a corps of Citizen Vigilantes hell bent on justice. What happens to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Or the integrity of evidence?
With so many potential voices reporting a crisis, it’s important for the organization embroiled in the event to be proactive in announcing, updating and responding to facts related to the event. Sometimes this can mean prioritizing the audience – who do you communicate to and when? Are the citizens directly affected by the crisis your top priority or is it more important to get the message out through mass media and social media? What about your stakeholders? And your efforts to coordinate with emergency services?
It’s also important to know what information is most important to convey. Risks to the health and safety of others should be top priority (say from a gas leak) as opposed to reporting the estimated time of resumption of normal operations. Knowing in advance the priority sequence for communication will mean each message is delivered more quickly.
In this era of social media, we are no longer able to control the message leaving our businesses but we can prepare to communicate effectively in a crisis. Are you prepared?
- Avoid idioms.
- Write out dates.
- Don’t use abbreviations.
- Nest Egg: Savings set aside for future use.
- Smell Something Fishy: Detecting that something isn’t right and there might be a reason for it.
- Keep your chin up: To remain joyful in a tough situation.
- June 10, 2011
- October 6, 2011
- October 11, 2006
- June 11, 2010
At first, it’s a novelty. Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places offer another digital place to gather friends with the practical side benefit of meeting them offline at the local mall, event or coffee shop. You and your friends “check-in” and you instantly know where to find each other.
There’s a game factor too that’s oddly appealing. It harkens back to our childhood – for me that included Guide badges and figure skating badges. Something to collect that represents an accomplishment. Ok, it’s a minor accomplishment but it’s still fun.
There’s also a competitive aspect attempting to become the mayor or Duchess of a location as you playfully oust a friend or stranger from their most honourable position.
Social check-in tools can also save you some money as many of them will highlight deals and offers near to your current location. That can be handy if you’re looking for a cheap lunch or an affordable pedicure. Business owners who claim their location on Foursquare can add special offers for the Mayor only, for visitors on their first check-in or a loyalty special to encourage repeat visits.
But once the gloss wears off the game of it and you’ve had as many free root beers as you can handle, what will motivate you to continue checking in? Business owners are experimenting to figure this out.
Many users, including me, have check-in fatigue. After a while it just feels like too much effort to pull out your smart phone, launch the program and wait for the GPS to find your location so you can check-in.
Users are now also better educated about the safety and security issues of announcing their location. If you’re at a restaurant, then you’re not at home. Is your house protected? There’s also the matter of personal safety in certain public locations. I never check-in when I’m somewhere with my son. It’s not worth the risk to his safety and my ability to keep him safe.
For me, I mainly check-in now when I’m at a conference or other big event. The sorts of events where my peers who also use Foursquare will be and the “find the friends” benefit works well.
So, I’m curious – are you checking in?
This week I’m preparing to go to Social Media Camp Victoria – a two day extravaganza of social networking experiences. I’m honored to be a speaker and am looking forward to learning from my fellow presenters including Jay Baer, Amber Naslund, Callan Rush, Sean Moffit, Rebecca Coleman and many others.
Given I could put “Conference Goer” on my resume, I’ve experimented with what to do and take. After lots of blisters, useless notes, dead batteries and some wicked headaches, I’ve figured out what works. Read on if you want a better conference experience:
A couple of weeks ahead, check how many business cards you have on hand. Plan to bring 250 cards with you. You won’t use them all but it’s better to have too many than too few. If your stock is low, order more now. Even if you don’t have a business you still need a card. Simple black type on crisp white card stock is fine. You can order them from Staples or Office Depot or your local print shop for a quick turnaround. Having a card makes it easier for the people to find you again after the conference.
Make a packing list of all the computer technology you want to bring with you. Do you need your cel phone? A laptop / Netbook/ iPad? What about chargers? Peripherals like external speakers or a wireless mouse? What about microphones or headsets? Don’t forget batteries and a power bar. The list should include the gear you want in your conference bag and the stuff you’ll need in your hotel room.
Cameras are another biggie. Are you planning to take photos or shoot some video? Then decide which cameras to pack. Is a simple point & shoot enough or do you need a digital SLR? Are you shooting video on your iPhone or creating something higher quality with a Kodak PlayTouch or a Flip? Again, what batteries or chargers do you need? How many memory cards will you pack? And bring your own tripod if you need one.
You know that TV show “What not to Wear?” Keep that in mind as you pack for a conference. There are some practical considerations – the time of year, the weather and the geography. A sunny summer day at a ranch venue requires jeans and a hat whereas as a June day in a conference centre requires business casual attire including a shawl, light jacket or cardigan just in case the air conditioning’s on full blast. Beyond the practical, try to figure out the style of the conference – social media conferences tend to be more casual (not sloppy) compared to hospitality shows, for example.
Separate from the clothes on your back, I implore you to pack comfy shoes. Flats, sandals or nice walking shoes are essential for you to keep on trucking around the conference. Wear runners if that works for you but please leave the smelly trail run sneakers at home for sake of those who have to sit next to you!
Take a look at at the speaker list – who do you already know? What blogs can you add to your RSS reader? Who should you follow on Twitter or fan on Facebook? If you haven’t already, get reading and start connecting.
Study the conference schedule. Are there concurrent sessions? Make some decisions about what you’d like to attend before you arrive but be flexible enough to go anywhere on the day. Make your selections a blend of topics you already know and challenge yourself to learn something new.
What tips can you share to thrive at a conference?
Here are the top benefits :
- Generate exposure for your brand and making it stand up to be heard.
- Increase traffic to your site including blog readers, website visitors and opt-in subscribers.
- Improved search rankings to bring your brand to the forefront in your area of specialty.
- Make new business partnerships from connections made and relationships built through social networking.
- Generate qualified leads for your business.
- Reduce overall marketing expenses as your social media efforts gain traction you are likely to spend less on other forms of marketing and promotion.
- Improve sales as connections become prospects and then customers with a better sense of your overall product or service listing and, more importantly, your style.
If you’d like to read the complete report, download a copy here.
I suggest even one or two of these benefits make your social media effort worthwhile. Please, let me know about your successes and don’t forget I’m available to help with your struggles.
Some people still do this with the old school way with the “bookmark” feature in a web browser. This puts the onus on you to click to each site to see if anything’s new. You can waste a lot of time clicking on sites where nothing has changed while you hunt for new content.
Instead, it’s much more efficient to use an RSS reader. There are lots of options available but I find iGoogle to be one of the simplest and easiest to use. I also like that it’s web based so I can log into this reader from any computer or mobile device, not just my own desk.
You’ll use your hand picked list of blogs in several ways:
1) To observe what others in your field are saying online. You’ll get a sense of how they are communicating and how your shared target market is responding.
2) To assess what works and what doesn’t and then mimic the formats/frequency that suits your communication style and meets the needs of your community.
3) To increase your online visibility by commenting on other people’s posts. Every time you do this you have the opportunity to include a link back to your website which helps people find you and enhances your SEO (search engine optimization).
4) To fuel the “referenced” or “curated” content that you’ll share through social media. As I’ve said before, what you post on Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be all about you and your company all the time.
5) Comments (#3) and sharing (#4) are also great ways to build relationships with the people behind the websites who are part of your community. They may be customers, prospects or peers .
All of this can be done much more efficiently with iGoogle or something equivalent. The time drain of social media is a huge concern for many people so I hope this strategy will allow you more time to do other things online.
One last thing … you’ll add blogs to your reader over time as you discover websites of interest. You may only find 3 or 4 a week and that’s fine. There may even be weeks where you add nothing new or delete some sites that are not longer of interest. It’s kind of like editing your perfect newspaper with only the sections you want.
I hope you’ll include my feed in your “must read” list. You’ll find the feed here.
Photo Credit: Ch10 on Flickr
used under Creative Commons License.
Here are 9 ways you can create original content this week:
- Write about the product you worked on today. What will your customers love about it? What problem will it solve for them?
- Praise someone you work with – a colleague, a supplier, a support worker. Share who they are and why their contribution is so valuable.
- Share someplace interesting you’ve visited. It could be a retailer, a supplier, a restaurant or somewhere in nature. Tell your audience why you enjoyed it and include a photo if you can.
- Record a video. Show your product being made or your service in action.
- Take photos of people, places & things. Every photo has the potential to anchor a blog post or become a tweet.
- Write about related products that complement but don’t compete. For example, a dog food manufacturer might write about a line of dog toys.
- Remove the veil and share some little known facts about your organization.
- Create a contest. Include a “can’t be bought” experience related to what you do in the grand prize.
- Conduct interviews with executives, suppliers & customers. This can be done by email Q&A or as an audio or video recording.
Go create something right now.
Get Out and VOTE
I whole heartedly support this sentiment. All Canadians need to get out and exercise their democratic right to vote. This is a privilege and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Although it was created for the 2008 American presidential election, this video is still pertinent and powerful:
Women Have Voting Power
Women haven’t always been able to vote and must never forget the suffrage moment of the 1910s when women like me – wives, mothers, aunts, daughters – sought equal opportunities at the polls. This is not an issue of a century past as I recently learned that women in Switzerland only gained the right to vote in 1971 and, of course, there are women who can’t vote in many countries even today. This compelling video really struck a chord for me:
And there’s Mom the Vote, a grassroots movement to engage mother’s in conversation about voting and to raise the issues most important to parents. If you’re a parent or if you support the concerns of parents, take a moment to like the Mom the Vote Facebook page now.
The allegedly homophobic comments of Prime Minister Stephen Harper sparked a firestorm of discussion in support of the Gay, Lesbian, Transexual and Bisexual community. For me, this Liz Feldman quote sums up the reaction beautifully:
- What themes are popping up in your social newsfeeds?
- What are people saying that will change your vote?
- What issues are most important to your community?
Let me know and don’t forget to VOTE on Monday, May 2, 2011
The premise of Pages Gone Wild is to quickly grow the number of people who “like” a Facebook page. Participants are required to “like” the pages of all other participants. Those who like all the participating pages by April 29 willl be featured in an epic blog post that will go out to 100,000 readers. With close to 400 people participating (so far) and significant visibility on offer, why would I hesitate?
I have always spoken openly about my desire for quality relationships over quantity relationships. I want people to interact with people and build relationships that go beyond just the click of a “like” button. But in order to find the quality relationships I’m looking for I need a quantity of people to get to know, right? With this program, will the folks dropping by be interested in my content or just seeking exposure through the event? The truth is it will be some of each. And it’s very likely that many participants will “unlike” my page after the event but that’s ok if I meet some great new folks.
Today, I had a look at the list of participating pages and there’s some really interesting work being shared. Check these out:
- What Would Your Mother Do?
- The Top 10 Blog
- Plan River Systems
- Bags N Shoes2
- (a)Musing Foodie
- Ann Duncan
- Watersoul Collections
- Amy’s Gourmet Cupboard
- Simply Stacie
Most of these pages are brands similar to my clients – heart centred entrepreneurs, commmunity organizations and business owners exploring social media to build an online community. I know my page would be a useful resource to them and there’s much I can learn from their examples not to mention their content. So, this morning, I’ve decided to join the fray and like a LOT of new pages. If you’re a Pages Gone Wild page owner please say hello in the comments. I’d love to get better acquainted.
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Just wanted to thank you for your time and insight today. Being new to the social media world, your coaching session really clarified what Twitter is and more importantly, how to leverage its power to build my business. Prior to meeting with you, I was "tweeting" without really knowing what...