Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Post-crisis communications

Thanks for my good friend Gerald Baron for raising the issue of what to do when a crisis dies down (in terms of traditional media interest) but lingers on, even flourishes, on social media platforms.

So, a crisis occurs bringing with it the usual public scrutiny, hyper-increased media attention, and more and more often, a huge spike in the number of conversations about the incident and your organization on social media platforms. You react according to your plans, perhaps set up a JIC ... A few days later, the media attention dies down ... you think: I've survived! ... but wait, the online world is echoing with the many voices discussing the incident and your response ... how do you react to what's being said ... do you stop caring because the TV cameras have gone.

Certainly not! I dare say that all organizations should have as a starting point a monitoring program that allows them to hear/see what's been said about them online and by traditional media. That way (as I've said before) you can effect a prompt and effective response if you have a good crisis comms plan in place ...

The key if flexibility and scalability. The monitoring program can be the work of one person ... let's call that routine monitoring ... when your situational awareness is tweaked by an emerging situation ... you bring more people along: one does media monitoring, another does social media ... you handle the review of existing messaging ... let's call this enhanced monitoring ...

Or maybe, right out of the blue, you're in the middle of it and you have to fully implement your plan. Full activation of a JIC ... all hands on deck. While this lasts, you concentrate on the key elements of your mandate: making yourself heard with the right info for your audiences, ensuring you get the right behaviour out of the people you need to reach, and also, putting the best face on your organization's response.

I'd suggest that once the "activation" phase has passed ... you pay real close attention to the demobilization phase ... in terms of crisis comms, that probably means staying at enhanced monitoring for a few days and weeks ... to be able to react immediately to unfavourable comments posted by "influencers" ... whether they be misguided, misinformed or even have an agenda that differs from yours.

Eventually, monitoring reverts to a routine nature ... with you integrating newly identified blogs, twitter lists and the such in the areas you keep track.

What I'm saying is that it never really stops ... you adapt, become flexible and learn for the next one.

Because while you're now keeping a close eye on what's just happened ... there's another potential issue looming on the horizon. We need to mirror the situational awareness that our operations colleague maintain every day ...

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