Corporate crisis teams not ready for social media firestorms

Preparation gap – High awareness of social media’s importance is not matched by preparation

Most corporate PR professionals realize that social media is important in crisis communications. But few have procedures in place for handling negative publicity in social media.
In-house professionals, on average, rated the importance of social media in crisis situations at seven on a scale from 1 to 10, with more than two-thirds believing its importance will grow, according to a recent survey of in-house and agency professionals by Gartner Communications – Strategic Communications Consultancy. But only about twenty percent of corporations surveyed have defined procedures for handling social media in a crisis, compared to 85 percent that do have such procedures for handling traditional media.

Many companies are sitting on a social media time bomb with no procedures for defusing it. And given the instantaneous speed of social media, there is no time to figure out your procedures once the crisis hits. A Facebook or Twitter user isn’t going to wait for a statement before posting or forwarding an opinion to hundreds of friends or followers. And it just multiplies from there.

PR agencies are at least a step ahead. More than 60% of firms responding are saying they offer clients defined procedures for handling social media in crisis.

Many corporations could make big improvements by simply adapting some elements used in traditional crisis communication to dealing with social media, for example, a structured online monitoring to become aware early-on of critical opinions spreading on the web. Traditional media lists are commonplace anywhere – companies should have lists of influential bloggers on relevant topics just alike. Approval procedures are absolutely critical as well; if posts need to be answered on social platforms in a matter of minutes, there’s no way each statement can wait for approval by the General Manager. In social media, the deadline is always ‘now’.

About the survey: Between July 16th and August 12th, a total of 91 in-house and agency professionals from 31 countries filled in an online-questionnaire on www.surveymonkey.com. Of the participants, 40% have titles of Chairman, Principle, President, CEO, Managing Director, Senior Vice President, Head of Corporate Communications, or Owner/Partner at an agency. Another 22% have a Vice President or Director title.

The complete report is available via email to ulrich.gartner@gartnercommunications.com

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