“If a conversation takes place on the Web and you’re not there to hear or see it, did it really happen?” –Brian Solis
This week’s PR lesson is on crisis communication. In this day and age of social media, the way businesses must approach a crisis has changed a lot and it’s up to these businesses to adapt successfully. As the quote by Solis implies, one small comment made on the web—whether negative or not—will be heard. If lucky, the comment can be harmless, but why leave it up to chance for the comment to go unchecked? That’s the key point and idea of how businesses should now manage any crisis. Be proactive rather than reactive.
The traditional crisis management plan involved responding to a crisis once the crisis already surfaced. Thus, in comes the PR team to settle down the uproar and assess the situation over time. The new model on the other hand, takes much of the concepts provided in the Groundswell—listening, talking, supporting, embracing, energizing—which is all rooted in the need for two-way communication. Instead of reacting to a crisis, Solis teaches businesses to plan ahead by listening to what’s being said about a business’s brand on the web. It’s all about preventing problems from turning into a full blown one. Even on a low budget this can be done by simply Googling the business brand and seeing what’s being said. By continuously tracking a conversation online, businesses can know what’s going on, respond to a comment when needed, and initiate a conversation, keeping customers engaged and happy.
I really like this concept of being “proactive” over being “reactive”. Solis makes a great point and it can be easily done. To take it up a notch, there are even sites like Trackur to give businesses more accurate data on what’s going on, on the web.
As a future PR practitioner, I hope to apply such concepts. Though the question I have that stems from crisis management is how to deal with problems of ethics. If a client you work for has a crisis, a crisis in which this business intentionally initiated that you don’t approve of, what do you then? Do you manage its crisis against your beliefs because it’s your job? This is just a thought I have had. Happy crisis managing!
For further reading, check out Brian Solis’s article on crisis communication for the web.