Crisis Communications in a Social Media World

June 3rd, 2011

wwpr-logoSome see social media as helping to create communications crisis situations. But effectively using it to get your messages out ahead of the story is the key to surviving a media maelstrom or crisis; this was the focus of a Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) panel on May 26. The panelists included:

Raj Aggarwal, president, PROVOC
Greg Kihlström, CEO, Carousel30
John Hellerman, partner and co-Founder, Hellerman Baretz Communications
Roz Lemieux, partner, Fission Strategy
Derede McAlpin, vice president, Levick Communications

Moderator: Rachel Henderson, account director, Public Affairs Group, Ogilvy PR

Monitoring The Media for mentions of your company or client and competitors allows you to have an early warning system, says McAlpin. If you start to see a lot of stories or posts coming in, there may be a problem. Lemieux added having a good relationship with your online community and constituents will help any organization to be a step-ahead of a crisis.

The panel offered several tips for social media crisis communications:

  • Preparation is key!
  • Be transparent.
  • Try to get ahead of the story.
  • Remember to maintain your own brand when responding.
  • Use the goodwill of your fans and followers.
  • If an industry group or commission is speaking for the group, stay out of the spotlight.
  • Try to neutralize the controversy.
  • Get your name and company sites at the top of search rankings with fresh content and Google AdWords.
  • Assign a lead to get the team to make decisions.
  • Pull advertising unless it is directly dealing with the issue.
  • Don’t delete a post—respond and draw the attention to a new post(s).
  • Treat bloggers like you treat reporters and be mindful of what they might report from your emails.
  • Find advocates, especially bloggers with a large following.

The panel weighed-in on the allegations that cyclist Lance Armstrong used performance-inducing drugs. Armstrong was praised for responding quickly via tweet. But, Lemieux pointed out Armstrong’s more recent tweets did not seem to have the same tone as previous ones. All agreed he needs to respond and lean on the goodwill he has built-up among his fans and followers.

View this free on-demand webinar, “Crisis Communication: When the Stuff Hits the Gumbo Pot,” from BurrellesLuce and, The Ragin’ Cajun, Dr. Joe. Trahan, as he leads you through techniques to successfully manage a crisis from planning to implementation.

Do you have any advice on dealing with a crisis with social media for the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas readers? What has worked for other organizations or clients?

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