Social media – public saviour or troublemaker?

Social Media’s Role in Crisis Management

An interesting piece in PR Week recently struck a chord with us in the Bluewood office.

It considered the extent to which social media is being used by corporate firms in order to mend damaged reputations in crisis situations.  No doubt given the immediacy of the medium, the PR world is increasingly using social media to defuse crises.

Causes of Reputational Crises: The Role of Social Media

Interestingly however, PR execs were also blaming social media for causing reputational crises in the first place.‘More than 70% of agencies blamed social media as the main cause of igniting communications crises for clients, whilst 24% said traditional media ignited crisis situations.

Identifying Culprits: Bloggers and Social Networking Sites

Bloggers attracted the most blame for igniting crises (34%), followed by social networking sites (24%) and forums (8%). Half of all PR agencies (51%) had a client that had experienced a crisis management situation involving social media in the past 12 months. Some 61 per cent said the use of social media had exacerbated the story, while 45 per cent said it gave journalists easy access to disgruntled people.’

Embracing Social Media: The Smart Approach

It’s a fair point that social media with and its immediate effects can cause and indeed fuel a crisis situation for any firm. Which is no doubt down to the medium’s honesty (given that it’s largely uncensored) and immediacy.

It’s probably also true that consumers are far more likely to comment online in response to a negative rather than positive experience that they’ve had. (Who rants about a positive experience?) Indeed, positive posts are largely met with scrutiny given that the chances are they were written by the firm in question under an alias…

But the biggest mistake for any firm would be to ignore it. Anyone with half a brain can see that social media is here and it is growing. The smartest thing that companies can be doing in response is getting to grips with, and importantly, using it, to the own advantage.

Proactive Response and Online Presence

Better that firm is seen to be responding and acting to negative customer comment rather than be ignoring it. The immense value of demonstrating an online presence and demonstrating a positive proactive response via blogs and networking sites should not be underestimated.

The Need for Readiness in Digital Media Crisis

According to the piece, experts disagree over the extent to which companies have gotten to grips with the medium.

Regester Larkin MD Andrew Griffin was quoted as having said: ‘Social media have really taken off in crisis management in recent months. Almost all the projects we are working on have some sort of social media element to them, primarily because it is so useful a tool for campaigners and so hard a tool for corporates to get right.’

One PR rep rightly said ‘Proactively assessing readiness for a digital media crisis is still something many companies have not embraced. We are starting to see them build elements of digital media into crisis simulation exercises and process development, but rarely do they test response capabilities.’

Leveraging Social Media: Training Opportunities

Want to learn how to make social media work for you?

No problem. Have a look at the social media training courses – we will have you up to speed in no time!

Happy blogging.

Gemma Carey, Bluewood Training Ltd

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