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How to integrate social media with PR, communications, and crisis management — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Evan Perkins of Connect with him by following him on Twitter.

11:55 —’s Lauren Clevenger introduces Ariba’s Senior Manager of Social & Community, Debbie Curtis-Magley.

11:56 — Debbie: Why does social media need PR? Social media is extending and amplifying the voice of the company. It also helps to inform positive impressions about your brand. Social helps you share content with news channels and serves as source material for bloggers and reporters. It also helps you to respond to issues and inquires that impact the brand.

11:58 — Debbie says that there are three main types of scenarios: Critical crisis, employees behaving badly, and customer chaos.

12:00 — Critical crisis are things you have little to no control over: natural disasters, accidents, or terrorist issues. In these situations your PR team is the messaging lead, so social needs to follow that content very closely. The social team, however, is likely the first group to see things popping up. You need to have a quick and clear path of communication to alert your PR team.

12:02 — Debbie: One of the first things you can do in you social response, once you have checked with PR, it to acknowledge that you are aware of the situation. Direct people to where they can find updated information about the particular situation. In the event of a death, you might have people expresses condolences. If this is the case, your response needs to be simple. People grieve in different ways so you must be very sensitive.

12:04 — What should you track and report? News sites and Twitter. Keep an eye on these channels. Understand the volume, tone, and focus of the commentary. Is it accurate or speculative? This will help you to know how to follow up and have conversations.

12:05 — Debbie says that you also want to track the life cycle of these instances. This helps build institutional knowledge.

12:06 — Debbie: Employees behaving badly is a situation that makes us all cringe! Employees often forget that we are all on surveillance and can be caught in the act. These situations can create a big firestorm fort our brand. PR and social need to work very closely together, but you also need to tell your employees how you are responding to the incident. Tell your employees what they can and cannot say about the incident.

12:08 — Debbie says you need to acknowledge the situation and let your employees know that this wasn’t appropriate behavior. Do not tell your company how you’re handling that particular employee unless your PR department has given you specific instructions. Also, offer guidance to your consumers with how people can get in touch with customer service. Lastly, keep track of the life cycle for the reasons discussed above.

12:10 — Debbie: Customer chaos is very challenging because it can be driven by emotion, which is not always rational. In these situations, work with PR, customer service, and employee relations. Discuss the purpose of the campaign but you might acknowledge that it could be taken in multiple ways. Avoid humor in these situations. Everyone might not appreciate your attempt to lighten the situation. They might instead view you as insincere.

12:12 — Avoid allowing trolls to dominate the conversation. You have a responsibility to make sure that your communities are productive and positive places. Remove trolls from your community if need be. Your customer support team can act as an early alert team. Stay credible and acknowledge the situation. Train your staff to make sure they know how to respond because you won’t have time to do so when a situation arises.

12:14 — Debbie says to be prepared! Have your wish list prepared. Be ready with your additional required staff, tools, or budget to handle crises situations.

12:15ROI for crisis management = the Rescue Of your brand Image! It could be priceless.

Q & A:

Q: What about if an employee creating a public Facebook page full of complaints about the company and the company has around 4K employees?

A: Debbie: You need to be sure that you’re working closely with legal on the situation. You must be mindful about free-speech rights, what’s permissible, what’s not, etc. If you simply shut it down, it will emerge elsewhere. If you have a social media policy in place you can remind your employees about it. You need to avoid trying to take ownership and likely need to just let it exist.

Q: When a crisis affects a parent company, how do you respond?

A: Debbie: You want to make sure that the parent company is working closely with the brand and delivering the same message. The parent company can reiterate policies, where your customers can go for help, etc.

Q: Can you give an example of the decision making process re: when you shouldn’t respond?

A: Debbie: If it is a highly speculative community you might not want to engage. They will speculate regardless of your comments. You might selectively respond to customers re: an outrage. If you respond to 100% of complaints you might come off as defensive. Be selective and respond to the comments that are more representative of what the broader crowd is saying.

Q: How do you manage the information flow?

A: Debbie: Have a crises communication plan. Make sure that your PR and social teams know one another and have access to one another. You must be paying attention to your colleagues in these departments and build/develop these relationships internally. Otherwise, your communications internally might get ignored.

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