Archives for posts with tag: digital

Digital Crisis management is hard work. It’s complicated work. But it’s also not rocket science once you understand the mechanics of the process. Today, let’s break down crisis management into five simple components (or phases) and briefly explore the structure of each one. Understanding how to break down a digital crisis management model that way, looking at what types of tools to use and how,  and going through a few general observations in regards to best practices will hopefully arm you with helpful guidelines should your organization ever find itself having to deal with… an unfortunate circumstance involving a lot of very angry people.

To illustrate how this works, we will look at screen shots of what @KitchenAid’s recent PR crisis looked like on our own dashboard. If you aren’t familiar with what happened and what the crisis was about, you can catch up here (just remember to come back).

Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Discovery

What the start of a PR crisis looks like.

One of the purposes of digital monitoring is to serve as an early warning system for PR crises. Every company should monitor social channels and news media for signs of a possible attack on their brand. The earlier a potential problem is detected, the faster it can be dealt with. It’s that simple. The question you want to ask yourself here is this: Do I want to be able to start working on fixing a PR crisis while it is still young, small, and easy to manage, or do I want to start working on it tomorrow, when it has already snowballed into a news story already being covered by CNN and the New York Times?

The more vigilant you are, the easier it will be to avoid major PR disasters. It really isn’t complicated. And thanks to modern digital tools, all it takes to set up an early warning system for your company is the will to do so, and a little bit of forward thinking on the part of your brand or product management team. (If you don’t want to do it internally, you can easily work with your agency of record to set something up.)

In the case of KitchenAid, the crisis was identified early. This allowed management to start working on it in that first hour, which is critical given that Mashable first reported on the incident about an hour after it happened.) Speed matters.

2. Analysis

The topic of conversation begins to change.

What does a budding PR crisis look like? What should you look for? How do you spot an avalanche before it starts coming down the mountain? It’s all actually quite simple. And… don’t think of it as an avalanche. Avalanches strike too hard and too fast. PR crises, for the most part, are more like waves. In regards to digital reputation management and crisis monitoring, fancy yourself more a surfer than an alpinist: along a timeline, crises look like waves. They’re swells. Your job, as a digital/crisis monitoring professional, is to watch the horizon for the next set of waves. Some waves are great. Some waves are dangerous. The trick is to learn which is which. (The metaphor stops here.) Here are some things to look for:

    • A sudden increase in volume of mentions.
    • A sudden increase in the number of retweets (RT).
    • A sudden change in sentiment (especially is the shift moves towards the red/negative.)
    • If you are using word cloud analysis alongside brand or product mentions to create context, watch for the appearance (and growth) of particular topics.
    • If one or more of your monitoring tools allow it, dig into the mentions, especially those that are negative, and see what people are talking about. On Twitter, pay particular attention to retweets. In the early phases of a PR crisis, people will be more likely to share a screenshot, a hyperlink to a blog post or a video than at any other point during the crisis. Chances are that whatever they are sharing will take you to the root cause of the crisis itself.

Note that in the KitchenAid example (see image above), blogs and social media channels were on to the crisis a lot more quickly than news organizations. The content window showing a Facebook conversation (orange circle) clearly focuses on the Twitter snafu, while the stream showing news item (green circle) still hasn’t caught up with the developing story. Multi-channel monitoring is key to spotting problems early and being able to dig into what is being said and why.

3. Response

A crisis hitting its peak. (Respond long before this point.)

How a company first responds to a crisis will set the stage for everything that comes afterwards. There is no room whatsoever for a faux pas. Incidentally, waiting to respond or not doing anything is a faux pas. The good old days of releasing a press release or statement in a day or two are gone. You now have under an hour to start responding to a crisis. If you really want to be on top of a crisis, you want to begin responding in under ten minutes.

Here is a quick primer on how to respond to a crisis quickly and effectively:

  1. Introduce yourself. Use your name and your title.
  2. Frame the situation for the public. State the facts. What happened? When did it happen? What is your position? Apologize of you need to. Don’t spin. Don’t lie. Establish trust and leadership.
  3. Communicate to the public what comes next and what they should expect.
  4. Communicate to the press the response schedule and structure, and the means by which they should obtain information from you.
  5. Communicate developments and milestones with the public as they happen (the frequency will depend on the crisis). Err on the side of giving them too many updates. Make them feel that you are dedicated to fixing the problem in the most expedient and transparent way possible.

To KitchenAid’s credit, this process is precisely the one that was used by Cynthia Soledad and the company’s crisis team, and it worked.

4. Management

Watching the crisis begin to slow down and deflate.

This part involves most of the heavy lifting. The crisis will hit its peak in this phase, so the volume of mentions will be higher than it has been in any of the previous phases.

How a company manages a crisis depends on a number of things: the crisis itself (type, gravity, potential market impact, etc.), its degree of preparation for such a crisis, its internal capabilities (technical, manpower, training, fluency), and its culture.

I should point out that it isn’t enough to take the pressure out of the balloon, so to speak. It has to be done properly, and in a way that makes sense for the brand. A simple way of looking at this: Say that Nike and Starbucks were to find themselves with a very similar crisis. And say that for the sake of argument, each of these companies had precisely the same degree of preparation, the same general guidelines, internal capabilities, fluency with crisis management, etc. One might expect that even with all of these similarities, Nike and Starbucks would respond their crisis differently. Why? Because each company enjoys a unique culture, a unique style of public outreach. Each company’s relationship with the public (some of who are fans and customers, while others are neither) is uniquely its own.

In that light, what is most important during the management phase  isn’t necessarily to have a crisis management plan (though having one would certainly help), but rather to have a thorough understanding of how to defuse public outrage, anger, criticism, even hatred, do so in a way that makes sense for the brand, and get through that process without antagonizing anyone. Companies have to walk a very fine line between defending itself and being in any way antagonistic. This requires that everyone on the crisis management team keep a cool head. No one can ever lose their temper. No one can get sucked into a public argument.

A note on internet trolls: Pay them no mind. As much as they may amplify negative sentiment during a PR crisis, trolls can only affect public opinion if they are given the power to do so. That power knows only one fuel: attention. The less attention a company’s crisis management team gives a troll, the less impact he or she will have on the direction, volume and duration of the crisis. It isn’t to say that trolls don’t, on occasion, need to be confronted and dealt with, but the management phase of a PR crisis is not one of those times. During this phase, a troll is just a voice in the crowd, trying to shout louder than anyone else. Try as they may, trolls can’t make waves in the middle of a storm. Remember that.

Control the message. Control the situation. Don’t get sidetracked by anyone whose aim is to distract you from your job.

There are essentially to main pieces to the management phase. The first is a continuation of the “update the public” function that began in the response phase. This can involve the creation of a crisis page and a Twitter account alongside existing communications channels. (BP did this during the Deep Sea Horizon crisis.) The second is the direct interaction between the company and the public across social platforms. That is where community management, the creation of discussion groups and tabs, the publishing of fact sheets becomes very important. In some cases, (like the posting of an offensive tweet) a quick explanation of what happened and an apology will do the job. In other instances, the problem goes far deeper than that and will require more work.

Examples: An investigation by a major news organization just uncovered that your company employs child labor in a number of countries around the world. A report from a global ecological watchdog paints your company as being a major source of air or water pollution. Your CEO has just found himself connected to a damaging corruption scandal. The batteries in your latest device can explode and injure your customers. (Things that won’t go away with an apology.)

By engaging with the public and listening to their complaints, a company can identify key topics they need to focus on. These topics will frame the conversation that the public ultimately wants to have with the company. The more focus exchanges have, the more likely it is that they can be shifted from pointless noise to purposeful signal.

Once a company has identified topics and themes, it can dig deeper and identify specific complaints that relate to them. Once these complaints have been clarified, the discussion process can now be shifted from conflict to collaboration. Remember that every complaint simply identifies a problem. Once a problem is identified, all the company has to do is acknowledge it, drill down into the details of the complaints around it, and ask the public how it would solve it. In doing so, the company’s relationship with the public shifts from one of conflict to one of collaboration.

The next step is to come to an agreement with the public as to what should be done about the problem, and how to move towards some measure of resolution that makes sense for everyone. Rededicate your company to fixing the problem, even if the best you can realistically offer is an incremental process that could take years. Make this a new point of focus for your company – an initiative. Pledge to work on this, and make it happen. Recruit the help of the public. Partner with them. Make them part owners of the solution. reward them for their help.

We could write a whole book on this topic, so it’s probably best to stop here… or this could turn into a VERY long blog post.

5. Post-crisis monitoring & advocacy

The crisis looks over, but is it really? (Make sure.)

This part is simply the follow-through. Now that the crisis itself has ended, it’s time to button things up. What did you miss? What did you learn? What comes next?

Don’t let the deflation of the wave of mentions be your only guide. News cycles are short-lived nowadays. People will grow bored of a scandal or PR crisis after a few short days, no matter how effective a company was at addressing and managing it. Just because people have moved on to another topic doesn’t mean that your troubles are over. Don’t mistake changes in the volume of mentions for resolution.

If the root cause of the crisis was not resolved, it will stick. It will become part of the brand’s story. It may even become the defining feature of the brand for years to come – a stain on its reputation that won’t easily go away once it grows roots. You don’t want that. A crisis can’t just go away. It has to be resolved.

What things look like two weeks later.

Drill down into the conversations. What do you see?

The only way to find out if it has been resolved or if it has just gone away for a while is to monitor conversations about the brand once the crisis has subsided. There is a short term piece to this, and there is a long term piece as well. You want to gauge the impact of what you’ve done, and make adjustments along the way until you can be certain that the crisis, its cause, and the expectations of the public have been worked through. Once that has been done, look for people who are not aware that you have resolved the problem, and politely, kindly engage them. Show them the progress you’ve made. Link to what you have done and what you are doing. Inform, inform, inform. Whom you inform, when, how and why can’t happen in a vacuum. Monitoring for specific types of opinions and conversations can help you target the right people at the right time with the right information. This allows you to get your message across quickly and effectively without requiring major media buys and hit-or-miss campaigns. Think major cost-savings, sure, but think also of speed and effectiveness.

To close our example, a quick look at the @KitchenAid crisis Tickr page two weeks after the incident shows no significant activity that might suggest a resurgence of the crisis. Digging a little deeper, we see that conversations have shifted from the incident to more routine, benign topics about the brand and its products.

How is that for using Tickr as a PR crisis overwatch platform? Not everything about digital monitoring and crisis management has to be complicated. We like to make things easier for everyone. It’s what we do,

As always, we would love to hear your comments, especially if you have PR crisis stories to share with us. What happened? What did you do? What did you learn in the process? Do you have any questions? Can we shed some light on anything? (Process, technology, best practices?) The comments section is all yours.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, so we can have that discussion there as well.

And if you aren’t using Tickr to monitor the web yet (social or not), you can start using the basic version for free in just a few minutes. (If you need more features or more horsepower, the Pro and Enterprise versions don’t take much longer to set up either .) Start here.

So rumor has it that Apple might be coming out with a new phone soon, and there’s even scuttlebutt about an announcement of some kind this week. Unconfirmed rumors, we’re sure, but just in case, we’ve made you a Tickr page. You’ll be able to follow a timeline of all the most up-to-date news, blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram photos on just one screen. If you’re into that sort of thing. (You’re welcome.)

To check out the iPhone 5 Tickr page, click here.

The social web hasn’t just revolutionized communications between people (and communications between brands and the public). It’s also revolutionized the way organizations operate when it comes to monitoring conversations that relate to them, their industry, their products and their campaigns.

For the last few years, digital agencies and brand management teams have been leveraging social media platforms like twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Google + and others to monitor conversations and mentions of their brands. This alerts them to shifts in popularity, perceptions and sentiment, overall mindshare, market relevance, the effectiveness of their customer-facing efforts, and an increasingly long list of insights that help them gauge the effectiveness of their activities.

Gone are the days of lengthy, expensive, labor-intensive 3rd party market research programs. Most of what happens in the real world of brick and mortar stores and cash registers and physical products that people can touch and feel finds itself projected online, primarily through social networks. If someone buys your product and loves it, they will share what they love about it with their friends. If they hate it, you can be sure that they will share that as well. Every experience relevant enough to be shared will be, because it can be. This is the new reality of the digitally connected consumer. Good or bad, this phenomenon yields its share of advantages for brands seeking to identify areas of positive influence on the market and areas where they still have a little work to do. Knowledge, after all, is power. And the kind of real-time, multi-channel monitoring available to brands today makes brings with it a tremendous amount of actionable knowledge.

If a consumer is particularly connected, the entire path from product discovery, shopping, purchase, unboxing and usage will be systematically documented across a breadth of platforms. At any given time, a photo of your product or retail location may be shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest (to name a few). User reviews, whether positive or negative, will invariably turn up on blogs, consumer-facing websites, and in the social stream of online retailers from Amazon to Overstock. If your brand reaches enough people, thousands of micro-mentions relating to you will flood the internet every hour. Making sense of it all, organizing the noise into some kind of manageable signal, takes a bit of deliberate focus. You need tools that will help you both quantify and qualify shifts in positive and negative perceptions, for instance. You need to build internal mechanisms that will help you sort through that mess of mentions and identify valuable insights and triggers like customer service opportunities, product improvement recommendations, and possible Public Relations crises looming on the horizon, for starters.

The complexity of this task increases with the reach of the brand. Here, size (of the market) matters. For some, the process can be relatively simple. For others, entire departments have to be mobilized (or created outright) in order to address this brave new world of brand intelligence and brand response needs. You need qualified people. You need big computer screens. You need specialized  software. Before long, what started as a loose collection of laptops and digital displays starts to grow into a formalized mission control center. This is the natural evolution of brand management in the social business age. Still somewhat novel in 2012, mission control centers will be part of every organization’s infrastructure by the end of the decade.

This raises a lot of practical questions: how do we build something like that? What will I need? Where do I start? How much will it cost? What tools should I use? These are all excellent questions, and over the next few installments of this series, we will try to point you in some helpful directions. For now though, the best thing is to look at what some companies are already doing in the mission control space, and see what we can learn from them.

If you want a couple of places to start, look at what Dell, PepsiCo and Edelman Digital have done already. They are among the first organizations to have embraced and experimented with the mission control concept. In fact, check out this video from PepsiCo showcasing Gatorade’s very own mission control center. (Disclosure: Gatorade uses Tickr.)

If it all seems a little complicated for the average company, don’t worry.

1. The video was cut to look complex and exciting.

2. Most brands don’t need that degree of complexity (at least not yet).

3. (And this may be the most important reason not to fret…) while some tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use, others are designed to simplify the monitoring process rather than making it more difficult (or pricey). We understand the need for both, but we prefer to fall in the easy to use category. Less headaches that way.

One of our goal at Tickr, for instance, is to provide a tool that requires virtually no training but offers our users powerful, easy to digest, relevant information on one screen and in real-time.

Sure, you can drill down into tweets and sources, or run reports when you need to, but the idea is to give you a clean, actionable snapshot of conversations and content being shared about your brand right out of the box. Our design is purposely simple, our features deliberately easy to use, and the entire user experience behind the tool built to be as intuitive as possible. You can use Tickr as a stand-alone monitoring dashboard or as an integral part of a more complex monitoring ecosystem like Gatorade’s. It’s entirely up to you.

If you’ve been a little gun shy when it comes to building a social media mission control center from scratch, an easy way to get over that hint of tech anxiety is to take a few minutes to test-drive the most basic version of Tickr: our free trial. (Yes, it’s free.) You won’t be able to create multiple search tabs or access every single source or menu item in the free version, but it will give you a pretty good feel for what Tickr can do and how easy it is to use. Once you’re in Tickr and building pages of your own, it won’t take you long to figure out why it is already a staple of mission control centers for digital agencies and brands: it’s simple, slick and powerful  but really simple. Nothing overwhelming about it. The Pro and Enterprise versions are loaded with additional features, but just as user-friendly.

Take a test drive and let us know what you like (or dislike) about it. We’ll take it from there.

(To be continued.)

Click here to return to our website.