Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crisis communications: the landscape has changed forever

Immediacy of response, trust and credibility, online presence ... those are terms that have been mentioned frequently on this blog. It's for a simple reason, social networks have forever changed how organizations must prepare to deal with a crisis. The old ways, based on a top down approach are GONE!

The only way to save your organization's reputation which can be destroyed in seconds online, is to empower your people to get your crisis communications plan in motion ASAP ... often without consulting you! You may be able to avert destruction with pre-approved messaging using identified channels (focusing principally on social networks) to reach key audiences ...

Let's look at some of the indicators of the seismic changes in the field:

  1. how we consume our news is changing ... fast ... more and more people will use mobile devices, in particular tablets, to do so ... and people who own tablets seem to be more "engaged" consumer of news ...
  2. More engaged audiences will share their perceptions and opinions about any crisis that might impact them and/or your organizations ... social networks are great platforms for the exchange of views ... the line between traditional reporting and what's being posted on social media is becoming blurred ...
  3. We are in an era of participatory or democratic media ... everyone is a journalist or a publisher. The Occupy Wall Street Movement (check out #OWS on Twitter) is a perfect example of that.
  4. Legacy or traditional media are starting to cope with the changes ... by monitoring social networks for breaking stories and how to verify the information, to integrating this process in their own professional development programs.
  5. Organizations are quickly realizing the impact of social networks on their future ... looking at their "reputational resiliency" in the era of constant, immediate, citizen-driven and produced information. The business of social media monitoring is booming. Here's a relevant example.
  6. In a crisis, while people will still have the reflex to turn on their TV, especially for large scale events, more and more of us actually rely on online sources, including social networks as revealed by the results of this summer's Red Cross survey.
  7. If you lie, or don't reveal the full extent of the impact of a disaster or a crisis ... you will burn. There are too many people out there with access to information for organizations to try to obfuscate. But they still do ....
Now, that's a brief list ... some of the things you've read in my blog posts before ...but frankly, very few "experts" do a better job at explaining the changes than my friend Gerald Baron.

Let me know what you think!


  1. Great post Patrice

    I guess the aspect that interests me most is the fact that people can use the new media to construct information about an incident independently of big media, formal agencies and/or the subject of the crisis.

    People can, and do, co-ordinate and inspire each other across the world, across state lines and national boundaries. They don't seek permission or necessarily reference their information against state or other formal sources.

    So managing communications crises well doesn't just impact on reputation and the bottom line (though clearly it does that). It impacts on public order and safety, evacuation planning, resilience and and recovery.

  2. Thanks for the comments Ben. You're right people will come to conclusions, based their actions on info they'll get independently, from each other. How to monitor that and ensure the right info is being shared is the key.