Crisis Communication & Social Media: Understanding PR 2.0's Role in Crisis Response
There's a saying: A happy customer tells a few friends ... an unhappy one tells Google. Thanks to social media, news travels lightning fast, so businesses need to develop crisis communication plans that account for online situations and responses. This "Crisis Communication 2.0" presentation was first delivered at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Forum.
The Ranger Station Fire
• 10-year old Ford fan site receives a cease &
– Remove the site
– Write a $5,000 check to Ford
• The Ranger Station blogs about it
– 916 comments in less than 24 hours
• 1:30 a.m.: @ScottMonty receives the first
tweet about the situation with a link to
another angry fan site
• Responds at 7:29 a.m.: “Thanks for letting
me know. I’m looking into that this morning.”
10:54 a.m. @pblackshaw I
was made aware of it this
morning and I’m tracking
down our trademark counsel
to weight in on it. Not good.
@badgergraveling I’m on it.
Getting our legal team’s
perspective and trying to
stop a PR nightmare.
4:55 p.m. @KrisColvin We’re
not shutting the site down.
We’re just asking that they
stop selling counterfeit
1:32 p.m. Excuse me for
just one moment. CALGON
TAKE ME AWAAAAAYYY!!
Thanks. I’m all set now.
138 tweets from
The Saga Continues …
• Scott asked his followers to retweet updates
– For every person who retweeted one of Scott’s
messages, it was made available to ~747
• Instead of just tweeting the official
statement, Scott called the site’s owner, who
updated the blog.
– Scott left Ford’s official comment on that post
• If Scott didn’t have pre-existing credibility in
online circles, crisis would have been much,
Credit: David Plouffe, www.ronamok.com
Do you ignore a ringing phone?Do you ignore a ringing phone?
Social media is the new phone. You canSocial media is the new phone. You can’’t ignore it.t ignore it.
“Many companies are being victimized
by social media rather than capitalizing
on it because they're too slow and ill-
equipped to react to negative
comments that can damage their
Identifying a Crisis
• Fire/natural disasters
• Online comments
• Product flaws
• Bad customer service
• Hacked website
• Negative reviews
• Your turn: What else?
Effective way to
How to convey
How to prepare?
Google Ad WordsLetter to the editor
Video on YouTube,
blog post, updated
CEO quoted in paper
& status updates
Facebook, YouTube &
other online outlets
What You Need to Know
• Lightning fast
• No 9-5 or weekend breaks
• Broadcasting “canned” messages won’t
• Search results define reputation
If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant.
From the Wall Street Journal:
"If you just go to Twitter when you
have a crisis, you will have no followers
and no credibility. The key to using
Twitter effectively is to build trust with
people who are relevant to your
business.” -- Shel Israel
Preparation = Success
• Before a crisis happens:
– Build a strong online network
– Establish relationships with journalists
– Train the online team to spot a potential
– Identify industry- or geographic-specific
Don’t wait for a crisis to strike to build a your network.
5 Steps to Develop a Crisis
Step 1: Establish the Team
• Labor relations
• Department heads impacted by
• PR (internal and external)
• Community manager
New addition to the crisis team: An online spokesperson
Step 2: Identify & Prepare
• Media training
– Convey key messages
– Block & bridge
– Comfort with cameras
– Never say “No Comment”
• Online spokesperson/community
Step 3: Develop Processes &
• Chain of command
• Approval processes
• If a reporter “scoops” story - what’s the
• How will you respond if a crisis appears
to be brewing online?
Avoid wasting time in a crisis by creating clear processes in advance.
Step 4: Understand PR 2.0
• Social media is powerful. How we integrate
the tools determines success
– Execs need to be as well versed as the 22 YO
• Who is saying what? And where?
• Free online monitoring tools:
– Google Alerts
Online monitoring is necessary during a crisis situation.
Search Queries to Monitor
Monitor company name + terms like suck, fail & die to find unhappy
• 20,000 “gripe sites” (end with sucks.com)*
– Only 2,000 sites end with stinks.com
• 35% of companies surveyed own the domain
name for their brand followed by “sucks”
Survey: Fairwinds, 2008
Fish where the fish areFish where the fish are ……
Where are conversations
• Blogs & comments
• Social networks (including niche
• Customer networks/sites
In a crisis, respond where the relevant conversations occur.
Online Tactics & Tools
• Other tactics to consider:
– Live-stream a press conference (Ustream)
– Virtual blogger briefing
– Video update from CEO/spokesperson (Flip cam)
– Social media release (Pitchengine.com)
– “Dark” site
– Google AdWords
Step 5: Role Play
• Brainstorm potential crisis scenarios
• Create response templates
• Conduct crisis “drills”
Practice makes perfect. Prepare by conducting crisis drills.
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