Navigating a crisis in a social media landscape [Slides/Flowchart]

At the

Social Media World Forum
earlier this week, Lucy Allen and I ran a workshop about crisis communications. It’s called ‘Red Alert – Navigating a crisis in a social media landscape’. As the title suggests it looks at how social media has changed very nature of the crises which impact a company, and what this means from an issues management perspective.

Essentially we believe:

  • There are two types of crisis – event-based crises (like a chemical factory explosion) and information-based crises (like a negative blog post, inaccurate statistic, or damaging opinion). Most companies are likely to face the second, informational type of crisis, whereas traditional issues management is aimed at countering the classic something-bad-has-happened crisis. So there’s a gap which this approach aims to fill.

  • Preparation is important – which means mapping out the likely crises across the axes of likelihood and impact, getting your messaging straight etc. But it also means opening up the channels of communication (blog, Twitter) which you’ll rely on when a crisis breaks


    (not during).

  • Whether to respond or not is key – but how do you decide? We offer a workflow (see below) to help you. It’s based on the excellent framework from the USAF Public Affairs Agency Blog Response Guidelines but moves it forward to cope with other channels and situations based on our experience.

  • How you should respond – OK so we’re going to respond, but how and what should you actually say? We offer some factors to consider, as well as some Dos and Donts.

I hope you find this a useful and practical framework for your crisis communications. We’d love to hear your feedback, or any lessons you’ve learned in the trenches so we can continue to build on this. Please feel free to share the response workflow or this slide deck. We have poster-sized copies of the workflow if that’s useful, just let us know and we’ll pass one along.

LEWIS – Blog Response Workflow Nov 2009

  • Hi Morgan,
    I was lucky enough to be present at your fine SMWF talk with Lucy. I enjoyed the framework you put around responding to various social media scenarios. Thanks.
    However, there are several points on your chart that wind up in “no response” necessary. While it may not be necessary, I think that it is almost always better to respond, even if all you can say is “yes, my product does suck in that way”. Customers like it when they have been heard, even (especially) if it is after some nasty rant. So unless resources are limited, I’d suggest ALMOST ALWAYS RESPONDING.
    (I agree that some folks are only there to make trouble/seek self-attention, so that is why I wrote “ALMOST”).
    Does your experience or inklings suggest otherwise?
    Yours, Marc

  • Hi Marc,
    Thanks for the kind words – I remember you coming to the workshop. The instances where we’re suggesting no response are: when you have nothing meaningful to add; where there’s negative commentary but no real commercial damage; where it’s a rant which isn’t getting traction; and where you don’t want to risk further debate. Otherwise, I agree the default should be to acknowledge the post, even if you don’t particularly agree.
    The issue here is that as a company in certain instances by commenting you confer status on the discussion. It gains validity by the very fact the organization deemed it worthy of a response, even if that’s a denial. So we want to present that it’s a valid decision, not to respond.
    In your example of an unhappy customer, the workflow does suggest a response, so we agree on that.
    Of course, on positive content, it’s polite to say thanks too.
    Do you agree?