my tips for social media management in Romania and elsewhere (3/5)

This is the script of an interview I gave for a Romania business journal “Business Review Romania” in June 2012. The interview is published in instalments. This is part 3 of 5
Can you give us 5 tips as to how company can manage a crisis through social media?
In fact, despite what most people think, and despite the usual romantic stories told about Internet crises and rumours, managing crises is a long-term rather than short-term exercise. Crises in social media in fact, reflect what is bad with your company, not what is wrong with your community management or the way you handle it. Here are my 5 tips about managing crises:

picture cc 2012 Yann Gourvennec (abstract album)
  1. fix internal problems first: things that you do in your day-to-day business may be kept hidden, but not in social media. Eventually, social media tells more about the way that you are organised internally than about anything else,
  2. work on the process: if you are making things up as you go along when a crisis arises, and then build the process as it happens, it means that you have done something wrong. You should work on that process from day one, before a crisis takes place,
  3. make your PR go social: don’t put all your eggs in the same basket; your PR and social media departments should work hand-in-hand. There is nothing that the community management team should do without referring to PR when a crisis arises, and vice versa, there is nothing that PR is aware of that should not be communicated to the community management team, inclusive of the stances which have to be taken and displayed. Don’t take the Lone Ranger approach by letting community managers express themselves in the name of the company even though they haven’t received clearance for it. This applies to large companies and mostly listed companies, for which external communications are extremely critical, and may not be applicable to smaller enterprises,
  4. prepare for the worst to happen outside normal working hours: my experience of crises online has shown that the worst problem often occur on a Friday night from 8 pm onwards or during the weekend, or at night. Work with vendors in order to set up round-the-clock moderation when necessary, in multiple languages when you are a worldwide company namely,
  5. set up your alerting system: not to generate alerts in real time all the time, but mostly when something bad happens so that you know in real time when you have to do something when it is really necessary.

All these are applicable to companies with a strong brand awareness only. Listed companies rank high on the agenda with regard to crisis management issues and the need to industrialise the process around them. On the other side of the coin, other companies with weak brand awareness would gain from a negative crisis rather than lose. If your brand is entirely “under the radar”, and no one is talking about you at all, then having a crisis means that at least people will talk about you; even though the experience may be unpleasant. As Oscar Wilde once put it: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about[6].”

[6] Oscar Wilde quotes at:

Yann Gourvennec
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