If I told you that monitoring your brand regularly on social media would lower your risk of a crisis, would you do it? How about if I told you that a crisis could ruin your reputation which subsequently can adversely affect your bottom line and scare off potential investors and donors? Would you do it then? What if I told you some simple tactics could lower your risk of crisis by as much as 76 percent? Wouldn't you agree that you'd be foolish not to take some actions steps?
Unfortunately, many organizational leaders today believe that they are exempt from a possible crisis. It's just not on the radar. "If it happens, we'll deal with it" are the famous last words of many former CEOs. I've heard all the excuses, and honestly, I feel your pain:
- Nothing bad will ever happen to us-we have good people who know how to do the right thing. I have two words for you: blind spots. Even though you may have great people, they are still human. It's also possible that some of the risks you are taking are built into your organizational culture, not your people. A good resource for an eye opener is the book Blind Spots-why we fail to do the right things-based on some heavy duty research. Good read.
- We can't afford to spend money on something that may never happen. I agree. Money is tight. But ask yourself this: if crisis prevention strategies can save you money or make you money, wouldn't you want to invest? Crisis prevention strategies also double as brand building strategies, and we all know that's a great investment in your organization. A crisis may cost you significantly more than any prevention strategy will.
- If something happens, we'll deal with it. I have a list of brands that have said that and then called two weeks later with a bigger problem they couldn't handle. That list is, unfortunately, significantly longer than brands that have called when they saw smoke in the distance and dealt with it right away. The latter are part of the 76 percent of crises you never hear about. In my experience, the majority of people that call early or incorporate prevention tactics always come out faster and better on the other side.
Benefits of Digital Risk Analysis
If you perform it yourself or bring in an outside facilitator, a risk analysis of your digital communications is key to crisis prevention. The majority of crisis causes in a study by Altimeter from 2001-2011 showed the majority of causes were related to communications, either failure to monitor what was being said, or poor internal communications practices. They included exposure of poor performance, rogue employees, inappropriate content, community censorship, lack of fact checking, failure to respond quickly, and inappropriate online response.
In order to lower your risk of crisis, a regular digital communications risk analysis should be performed which includes such areas as current crisis communications policies, website practices, internal social media training, audit of social media properties, traditional media tracking, earned media tracking, social media management policies, media relations policies, current triage response, mobile technology integration, and internal communications systems, to name a few. Prevention is work, but it is work that can be incorporated into your media staff's duties with minimal disruption and some training.
A risk report should include three basic areas-many will be more detailed, but they will be sub categories of these three:
- High Alert: high risk or vital behaviors to correct or implement immediately. High risk=high danger.
- Medium Alert: risk behaviors that need attention and can significantly lower your risk of crisis
- Low Alert: best practices that will not only complement your crisis prevention but will help you build your brand and protect your reputation in digital communications
I recommend bringing in an outside expert to take a look at your digital practices, and someone who has experience with your sector. I also recommend taking their findings seriously, especially the high alert findings. The benefits of risk analysis far outweigh rolling the dice. In this day of fast moving online information, an incident can turn into a crisis before you may even be aware of its existence. A close look at your internal practices can help save you money, and even make you money in the long run.