It's that time of year-summer's over and school is just around the corner. It's time to look at your crisis communications checklist for the coming year and make sure you are ready on the social media front. Let's start with a quiz-it's school after all, right? Do you fit in any of these groups?
- Only 26% of higher education institutions require registration or training for people operating social media channels on behalf of the school.
- Only 17% of reporting schools have a crisis plan for the use of "unofficial" social media channels that represent the school such as athletics, student organizations, or faculty.
- Only 56% of higher ed institutions have a plan to monitor social media for brand mentions and possible smoldering crises.
In the inaugural study that produced the data above, CKSyme.org and CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) surveyed CASE member schools globally to find out how prepared they were for a crisis, specifically in the use of social media. The research revealed that even though 100 percent of the respondents were using social media, they were not very consistent in employing best practices of how to use social media in a crisis. The results of the survey suggested five important tactics every school should implement to be prepared to face a crisis. Do you have these five on your social media checklist for back-to-school?
1. Make listening a priority with a social media monitoring system. A social media monitoring system can help you keep track of what is being said about your institution in the social media universe, alert you to issues you may not be aware of, and help you gauge public understanding and sentiment around an issue. There are many good social media management systems (SMMS) that include monitoring as a component. An adequate monitoring system can be pieced together with little or no cost using several applications. This list of tools from Tripwire Magazine includes some low cost and free tools. Jeremiah Owyang of Web Strategy has put together a more extensive and research-based review of enterprise level tools here. The important concept is to build a monitoring system that tracks mentions of your brand in online media. The system can be as simple or as elaborate as you have time, resources, and people for. But experts agree a monitoring system is primary, and the sooner implemented, the better. This is the new age clipping service.
2. Develop a social media policy that fits your institution's culture. There is a misunderstanding among many that a social media policy is a prohibitive document. The best social media policies operate as guide rails that empower people to use social media channels responsibly in a way that builds the organization's brand. In Owyang's research on social media readiness, every top-rated company in the report had a social media policy. Those companies with social media policies were also the most successful in crisis and reputation events. The policy should include a training or on-going education element as well. Here's a good place to start to see some examples.
3. Put together a social media management system. A social media management system (SMMS) should have multiple functions that can facilitate monitoring, publishing, lead and conversion tracking, measurement, and customer relationship management, depending on what your institution's social media strategy is (see Jason Falls' report on management systems). The system may or may not include monitoring, but at its most basic level, it should allow for multiple accounts and administrators to post and manage to your social media channels.
4. Establish registration or affiliation of school social media accounts under one umbrella. School communicators would be well-advised to develop a training program or best practice guidelines for anyone representing the department in the social media space. Also, establishing a database of account administrators and passwords held by a community manager allows you to remove old accounts or delete or post to any department-related account in an emergency. Many schools have a portal or gateway page that lists all the social media accounts that represent the institution. Start with those channels. Make sure you have guidelines for "unofficial" social media channels representing the school, and you have a plan for how those accounts should be used in the event of a crisis.
5. Establish a community manager for your school's social media. Many respondents in the survey did not have one single supervisor or team monitoring and guiding all their social media. This does not imply that one person should handle all the social media, but that there should be a centralized resource that acts as a hub to the school's "spokes" so there is continuity in branding and messaging, especially in the event of a crisis.
As you prepare to go back-to-school, make sure your crisis communications checklist is taken care of. Have you prepared for the coming school year?