What can social media do for me in a PR crisis?

When that bad story first hits your computer screen, you can be excused for feeling just a little bit panicked. If you’re like most companies, you aren’t prepared for a PR crisis. You might have some action plan in mothballs, but if it doesn’t include social media readiness, you’re not prepared for a full-blown 21st century PR imbroglio. If you haven’t thought through how social media transforms your PR crisis planning, it’s time to do so now.

Social media can be ideal in crisis management for a few reasons. First, nothing beats the speed with which you can respond. You don’t have to wait for media to call. You can answer the story right where it starts, possibly quelling an issue before it gains too much negative momentum. On the other hand, social media demands that you respond quickly, so one person’s opportunity can be perceived as another’s curse.

You also have the advantage of being unfiltered–no news media is interpreting or editing what you say. Your words, unfettered, can make the impression directly on your audience. Your words also influence the mainstream media, so you get your cake and can eat it, too.

And your response can be personal, and therefore more believable, than the corporate-speak press releases we did in the old days. When Ford was criticized for taking legal action against a fan club, Ford’s Scott Monty jumped into the discussion to let people know that Ford was listening, and quickly brought forward facts that the fan club was copying Ford trademarks without permission and turned opinion around in just one day. Scott’s credibility built from years in the community made that happen as much as anything else.

So, if you are not prepared for your next crisis, this is your big chance to get ready. You must build the credibility now, before the crisis, by participating on blogs, message boards, Twitter–wherever your audience hangs out. Then when the crisis hits, you’ll have credible voices already in the right places–voices that will be listened to much more than a PR person you parachute in.

As you watch companies pilloried in social media each day for real and imagined transgressions, remember that some day it will be your turn. By preparing for that crisis moment, you’ll be able to weather that crisis and emerged relatively unscathed. (I am not sure what it is, but I definitely don’t ever want to be scathed.)

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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