Did Somebody Say ‘Crisis Communication’?

“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.

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4 responses

  1. I really enjoyed this blog post, very well done! I have to agree with you that it is best for companies to be proactive and keep an open two-way communication path during a crisis. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading! With the rise of social media comes the need for businesses to always be on the tip of their toes, ready to react. Social media is daunting because anything can happen, any time, therefore businesses have to be alert 24/7. But with new online analytic/metric tools, things are manageable as long as businesses plan ahead and keep on top of it. Social media can be a threat, but it can also be a shield.

  2. I also read Brian Solis’s article about Reinventing Crisis Communications for the Social Web, it’s thought-provoking. In Web 2.0 era, the crisis has a broader definition and its distinguished feature is proactive. Today, PR practitioners should take the advantage of social media to deal with possible and foreseeable crisis. Besides, I also found crisis communication for social media is an integrated application for all objectives and strategies of Groundswell. To this extent, crisis managing is both a challenging and interesting task.

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