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In the first part of our interview with Weber Shandwick Executive Vice President David Krejci, we talked through crises that originate on social media. But as you probably already know, crises can begin offline and then move to social media, inviting a whole new audience to participate. In this portion of our interview, David offers advice on when and how to use social media when you find yourself in the throes of a crisis.

Social media gives everyone a direct channel to brands—has this increased the frequency of crises?

Crisis, probably infrequently. But issues? Yes, by many times. Ten years ago if a company “wronged” you, all you could do is call them, maybe write a letter, tell your spouse and best friend and maybe seven people are now aware of the situation. That’s not really a crisis for a company. Now, if an airline breaks your guitar—hypothetically speaking— you can get 13 million people to sing a song with you about it. Social media is customer service and a customer complaint line all in one, and we all get to watch.

With any crisis, there are often multiple stakeholders involved, and what happens on social media can even have legal repercussions. How do you identify the appropriate point person to handle the situation and ensure you’re meeting the needs of everyone involved?

Here’s where we plug our social media crisis simulator: Firebell. Our drill invites legal, HR, IT, web services, public affairs, operations, c-suite, social media, advertising, marketing, PR and more to participate. There are many stakeholders involved during a social issue or crisis, and all parties need to understand the complexities involved, such as how one lever pulls another lever. Certainly someone needs to have the final say, but it takes a ton of smart people with different skillsets to make things work well.

When issuing a statement in a crisis response, what role should social media play?

If it’s a true crisis that lives outside of a particular social channel, then social is fundamentally a pass through to a deeper statement online. And, if possible, social is there to clarify and answer questions in that channel as they arise. However, that assumes your social channel is being staffed with persons with requisite crisis communications experience — social marketing expertise is not the same as social crisis expertise. Just because someone can drive likes and engagement does not mean the can handle the other side of real-time marketing. Companies largely know that now, but for a while, it was a little shocking.

If you were to distill the keys to social media crisis management into a single phrase, what would that be?

Deep crisis expertise + an understanding of social media behaviors + an understanding of the technologies in play = survival.

 

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