Monday, August 19, 2013

Social Media Monitoring: A Crucial Crisis Readiness Strategy

Wisdom from the Crisis Guru # 995

From Chapter 7, page 214, of “Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management” by James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

7.3.1 Develop a Monitoring Strategy

Because of the explosive nature of social media, developing a monitoring strategy and putting it in place as part of a crisis plan is essential. Of course, you could attempt to handle this monitoring yourself or assign it to someone on your staff. Or you could take advantage of companies like BrandProtect and Risdall.com, which provide reputational monitoring services. In either case, the message is: Have a listening platform ready for something to explode in social media.

Even if your company or organization is reticent to engage in monitoring right now, you might consider forming a SMART (Social Media Action Response Team) composed of people in your business that are smart about social media right now. They could be ready to step up should something happen and be the bridge to readiness if called for.

Today, many organizations most are likely marketing themselves via a website (and blog); email, social media (Facebook and Twitter); and traditional print, audio, and video media. These key channels to the consumer are also pathways for online activism that can:
  • Block public or private actions.
  • Bully and humiliate.
  • Spread corporate disinformation or misinformation.
  • Decrease or increase market capitalization.
  • Air legitimate problems that activists cannot get solved by other means.
  • Give voice to victims.
  • Publish just because they can.
  • Provide publicity for their cause.
  • Retaliate and extort.
  • Push social-political-religious-nongovernmental organization (NGO) agendas.
  • Target organizations to stop certain behaviors.
  • Empower whistle-blowers.
  • Foment shareholder issues.
Attack strategies can work quickly and build huge diverse audiences. Attacks – both now and even those that may have occurred in the past – raise lingering questions among key base audiences that must be corrected, clarified, or answered. In most instances, failing to respond can exacerbate the problem. Even minor inaccurate information published by a third party should be corrected as quickly as possible (most bloggers generally take the accuracy of their posts seriously and will correct errors of fact and misinterpretation). Why make the corrections? Attack sites persistently remain accessible – and searchable – for a long time. It’s your destiny. If you fail to manage it, someone will step forward and do it for you.

You stay ahead of instant news coverage by monitoring blogs and social media via searches using key words for your organization and senior management team on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Twitter, YouTube, and other social sites. These searches will provide the baseline of your digital and social media listening platform. Build a baseline of blog coverage using the searches provided by Blogpulse, Technorati, Ning, Getsatisfaction, uservoice, and blogsearch.google.com. Build a digital and social media matrix incorporating your baseline profile, and then create standing searches to monitor your key search terms, sending Google alerts via email or Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds to a Social Media Action Response Team (SMART) dedicated to monitoring your company 24/7.

RSS feeds enable websites to multiply the distribution of their content through free subscriptions, which push out content updates automatically by email, web, and other news readers. For example, keywords associated with a company and its business, products, and services at the feed site allow subscribers to select their topics and automate monitoring of news, blogs, and other items 24/7.

For a crisis, web monitoring services help you access the intensity, depth, interest, and emotion that surround your situation. Geo-locating sites can pinpoint the greatest concentrations of interest in your problem by geographical region. Keyword searches on Facebook, Google blog, search.twitter.com, LinkedIn and Yahoo, can tell you a lot about the volume of interest and type of comments the situation is generating. In a crisis, in order to drive readers to your site, buy Google search keywords as soon after the initial incident as they can be determined.

Protect your site content by copyrighting your site. Establish, use, and enforce an online posting/email/social media policy within your organization and with your outside advisors. Employees mean well, but they can hurt by trying to help, causing the worst damage.

Build a fan base. Social media sites consist of smaller communities of individuals, often linked by common likes or dislikes. A strong offensive tactic before a crisis is to use the most popular social media platforms to form your own communities around your news, products, services, innovations, and so forth. Develop a fan base and engage your fans in a regular dialog. Once you get involved in the discussion, you will become familiar with using the medium and comfortable discussion your business and news, as well as responding to issues and complaints.

Attach a blog to your website, and engage in similar dialogs with people who post comments or complaints. Become an expert in responding to issues without “fanning the flames.” Before posting announcements, bulletins, and other information, take care to have the content reviewed thoroughly by key functions in the organization, such as legal, human resources, marketing. Before executing a preemptive strategy, always apply the common sense test:
  • Are your employees talking about it?
  • Are your customers talking about it?
  • Have you seen any activity profile that can’t be explained easily?
  • Is there other chatter (on various other platforms) that includes references to your situation?
Some recommended purchasing “suck sites” and negative URLs (web addresses), which are variations on your company name and branded products and services to prevent online misappropriation and attacks. Try searching with terms like your company or product name with “die,” “sucks,” and “I hate.” It’s also a good idea to search for any suck sites related to your organization.

Have you or your organization been the target of online activism? Have you experienced activist/contentious attacks; bullying; customer complaints; or whiny, disgruntled people? Or, have you been lucky, with no attack… yet? In any case, it pays to monitor and review “gripe sites” that mention your organization or even your direct competitors. (Note: For more about dealing with online activism, see Chapter 8 of Jim’s book.)

By James E. Lukaszewski

***

James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA is the author of Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management, available now at Amazon.com.

Learn more from Jim by attending one of his many upcoming seminars or webinars. On September 27th, 2013, you can hear Jim talk about Crisis Plans in 10 Steps: Proven Templates and PR Best Practices for Managing Crises in the Digital Era, a 90-minute webinar with Bulldog Reporter.

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