How to integrate social media in crisis communications


ePublicist / Foter / CC BY-ND

A crisis is a time of uncertainty that requires the careful management of information. If you don’t move quickly to present the facts and explain your position, then others will do it for you – and that puts the accuracy of the words and images they use beyond your control.

The words and images you use can either spell success and strengthen your future or damage your company’s reputation for years to come. The impact of social media on the crisis communications process has been significant.

Today information flows faster is more complex and independent. It is spread through multiple channels, and as a result, is often less reliable and more difficult to control. You often have just a few hours or minutes to communicate.

Social media must be fully integrated in your crisis communications plan. That means, your social networks are of equal import as other audiences and your community manager should be an effective communicator, as well as a media-savvy professional with appropriate technical skills.

Messaging must be also consistent with other channels, but appropriate for social networks. Candor is expected and an authentic voice is critical.  And, as crisis communications is a two-way process, listening through your social networks can inform your communications with many different audiences.

Above all, you need to consider and plan for all contingencies. Each type of crisis should be considered. Social media will play a critical role in communicating during and after natural disasters, terrorist attacks, cyber breaches and, of course, crises created by social media. But also consider its role in financial crises, human resources issues and (in the insurance world) claims and service issues.

Join me on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 at 11 a.m. EST for the IMCA webcast, “Integrating Social Media in Crisis Communications,” where I’ll explore these issues in more detail.

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Becoming Mobile and Social – Reflections from the IMCA Creative Forum

Finding really valuable take-aways from industry conferences can be a challenge. I went into the IMCA Creative Forum in Atlanta on Feb. 21 with a vested interest (full disclosure: I am on the IMCA board), but also some anticipation to learn more about everything from mobile marketing to social media integration.

Jon Beber of BilltoMobile opened the forum with insight into the incredible impact mobile marketing will have on our lives and the strategies of marketing and communications pros – smart phones, not computers, will drive everyday life and “PC analytics will not work with smart phones.” Mobile marketing needs to be part of the integrated communications mix.

James Wisdom, Director of New Media at Aflac, was a great follow-up with “The Power of Authenticity.” In this context, he discussed Aflac’s response to customer services issues raised on Facebook and their use of the Facebook Causes app: “If social media is talking about a cause, people are okay getting hammered about it.” More information I could use.

John Coombe of Liberty Mutual built on those ideas, describing their success with the Liberty Responsibility Project. He explained how this helped Liberty overcome consumer distrust about insurance and raised brand awareness 50 percent. They engaged customers in a dialogue and celebrated their customers’ responsibility – engaging over 10 million unique visitors. He also pointed out that 67% of agents are engaged in social media. That’s a tidbit that will help.

These are all great ideas and tidbits of information, but how do I sell these to my clients who may be timid or help them pitch their forward-thinking communications ideas to management? No worry – it was Sam Harrison up next with great tools for pitching ideas, all built on that great David Olgivy quote: “Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea until its presented to them by a good salesperson.” And he added 5 ideas for pitching ideas to management, emphasizing that “passion is a transfer of enthusiasm.”

After lunch, Tom Pytel of Allied World showed how his in-house creative team breaks through the marketing boredom and never lets budget limit creativity. Innovating collateral is not specifically relevant to my work, but it was inspiring to all of us who may be tempted to succumb to mediocrity.

And finally Howard Yermish (he claims to be the only one by that name) on “Internet Marketing, Creativity and Stravinsky.” He captured my interest with: “If you think you can control the flow of information from point A to point B, the Internet will kill you,” and kept on with an inspiring, hour-long presentation on unlocking our creativity using lessons from composers. We then broke into groups to put the theories to the test.

As you can probably tell, I walked away from the Creative Forum bursting with new ideas, my left and right brain feeling some connection. Not only did I gain practical information on mobile marketing and more, but I was inspired to push our clients with bolder ideas – and I have better tools to sell them on these ideas.