What would you do if your boss called and said the student you hired to help with social media had just posted something inappropriate from a department account? Or if a friend called to warn you that an angry fan was spreading vicious accusations on Facebook about how they were treated by an usher at one of your events? Maybe your server got overloaded with traffic from a huge news event, and your website went down.
Crisis. It's never-ending. It's life. You can't always do something to avoid it. After all, you don't control the weather. But, the majority of crises can be prevented, according to Altimeter research-as many as 74%. It's time to get serious about crisis prevention. You may think nothing bad will ever happen to you, but you can put some guidelines in place to insure that your chances are lower.
I asked several of the nation's leaders on crisis to give me some golden nuggets on how brands can prevent a crisis in 2015. There are a couple of themes here-see if you can spot them.
Secure and separate your business and personal social media accounts. "Too often, people responsible for posting to their brand's or client's social media accounts get into trouble when they accidentally post a message intended for their personal feed to their professional one. To avoid that fate, some social media platforms, such as Hootsuite, offer a "Secure Profile" feature that requires users to confirm a message before sending. Some platforms also allow you to prevent junior employees from sending messages out on a corporate account until approved by an authorized supervisor, an added layer of protection that can help prevent an embarrassing social media disaster.
At the very least, consider separating the two activities out: personal posts from your mobile phone only and professional posts from your laptop only. Alternatively, you can make it a habit to log in and out of brand pages only to send a message (you can monitor the brand's feed from a neutral account while not logged in as the brand). One thing seems clear from the mistakes made by many a PR pro: If you toggle back and forth from your personal and professional accounts, you'll eventually send an errant message."
Jonathan Bernstein, principal and founder of Bernstein Crisis Management, speaker, author:
Do a vulnerability audit: "Most crises are preventable, and the starting point is a no-holds-barred, in-depth look, at the potential crises that could occur to your organization. That's what we call a vulnerability audit, and the results provide a platform for subsequent crisis planning and training."
Prevent the preventable, prepare for the unpreventable. "The best way to prevent crisis in 2015 is to 1) clearly and realistically understand the risks that leave you vulnerable, and 2) prevent the preventable risks (this takes actual action) and prepare for the unpreventable risks (this also takes action). If you want to do this as effectively and successfully as possible - as well as test your plan and further strengthen the crisis management skills of your team - then putting your team through a full-scale crisis simulation is the most strategic and rewarding thing you can do."
Karen Freberg, Assistant Professor in Strategic Communications, University of Louisville, blogger, speaker, researcher:
Provide internal education. Invest in sustainable education and brand advocacy programs for all employees on new media and emerging technologies. A lot of crises can be prevented if people know the newest tools and platforms, tips and best practices and understand why authentic and transparent practices are a key part of successful social media integration for a brand's culture. With this education, employees can feel empowered and advocate for the brand in crisis situations and non-crisis situations.
Erik Bernstein, crisis consultant, social media trainer, and online reputation specialist for Bernstein Crisis Management.
Turn your employees into advocates. Employees are one of the most overlooked crisis prevention tools in any organization. Educating them on how to recognize crisis and empowering them to actually DO something when they think they see trouble coming will help you cope with potential issues before you're neck-deep in problems.
My golden nugget has three points: 1) Listen: monitor your brand mentions on social media, 2) Train: everyone that uses social media on behalf of your brand should go through mandatory training that includes compliance, and 3) Have a response plan for addressing issues that pop up on social media or concerns that fans submit via social.
Here's to a prosperous and crisis-free 2015.