Thursday, November 12, 2009

How soon is now?

I'm the son and the heir ... of a fast changing world (sorry Morrissey !) where the need for immediate communications responses to emerging incidents and crises is overtaking many other considerations.

But how soon is too soon? In a world where an airline gets criticized (in some corners) for taking 13 minutes to respond to one of its planes landing in the Hudson River, do you still have time to take a breath and analyze things before reacting?

First, you need to be able to find yourself in that position and that means a robust social and web monitoring program ... that's just the start though. Once info starts flowing in at the onset of a crisis or incident, what guides your response? How do you determine the when and the how, or even the if?

I think all crisis communications plans should have a couple of elements built in that will help you avoid a misguided or too early of a response. The first is a quick analytical tool that will help you determine if you should respond at all.

I'm a big fan of the US Air Force's blog and social media engagement matrix

I've adapted it for our own purposes on the project I'm currently working on and it's very useful tool ... one can use it pretty quickly ... but i believe that the result of its analysis can be interpreted in many ways ...

I think the second "check" in your response scheme should be someone in your organization, either in your comms team or your executive, that can quickly validate your thinking before you go ahead and effectuate your response.

Not in an approval sense but more like a sounding board. Now, i believe that these two measures would not add much time to your response but would help ensure your organization's reaction was measured, on-target (right messages for right audiences) and effective.

I'll come back to a point I've made a few times in this blog. Social media are one set of tools for a crisis response ... they are not an end in themselves and should not overtake your capacity for a thoughtful approach despite the requirement for an immediate response.

Look forward to your comments ... thanks

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