Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Caribbean Digital Expo: Crisis Communications 2.0

Caribbean Digital Expo 2011
Photo credit: Caribbean Ideas/CDX 2011

Finally, Caribbean professionals had a chance to discuss social media in their own backyard!

The Caribbean Digital Expo was hosted by Caribbean Ideas on Nov 22 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Aimed at providing a Caribbean-centric forum for discussions around social media and other forms of digital media, the conference looked at digital media as the future of marketing and communications across the Caribbean.

While there were many examples and discussions of how brands are using social media, the panel discussion on crisis communications and social media was timely, especially as many social media proposals stall in the board room amid fears of negativity and fallout in such a wide, open and very public forum. The idea of reputational risk building and growing faster than the blink of an eye does indeed instill terror in the hearts of executives, but as with anything else in business, there has to be a strategy and a clear road map for practitioners to follow in order to manage issues and prevent or successfully defuse crises.

Thus even when pitching a social media proposal, one must be prepared to also discuss the flip side of social media – issues and crisis management. Being prepared from the get-go is the only way to meet any negative reactions or events head on.

Thus it is important to be aware of what adverse impact may affect your brand online. Alec J Rosen’s presentation was quite comprehensive in outlining the steps in managing crises online.

In order to stay ahead of the curve, scan the cybersphere, and assess the impact of social media activity on your organisation and go through the various scenarios which may impact organisational reputation online.

Preparing social media mitigation tools, both online and offline, for example a dark site for activation in the face of a crisis, an 800-number for crisis management and feedback, cross functional teams within the organization, and an ongoing cultivation of friends and allies who will prove to be exceptional brand evangelists in the turning tide.

Scanning the social media landscape for issues
and in order to manage crises
Photo credit: ActiveMetrics
Identifying the crises, whether they be sudden crises, or slow to develop crises is also important.

The response, whereby there are not only regular updates but conversations. Thus meetings with the crisis team and internet searches. The importance of being searchable will prove to be very important during a crisis, in order to monitor what is being said, where and by whom.  This is when you can activate one’s crisis management plan, and I love how Judette Coward-Puglisi of Mango MediaCaribbean, mentioned “holding tweets” in addition to the more traditional holding statements. Traditional crisis response tools such as press releases can and should be augmented by tweets, Facebook updates and I would suggest as well well-crafted video responses. Having a clear online response balances the negative reactions which will ultimately live online.

Rosen also pointed out that communication must be proactive. It must be open, it must reach and influence the various audiences, it must be multi-channel, and of course, it must be factual and clearly on message.

And of course, the E word that everyone loves to hate but which is so important in every aspect of communications – evaluation.  One must evaluate the outcomes and review key learnings which will influence the crisis management plan going forward.

This was the most useful part of the expo for me. Much of it also seemed to indicate that organisations still think social media is a "nice thing to have" as a lot of the questions/comments seemed to suggest. But great start!


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