Editor’s Note: Professor Karen Freberg discusses her crisis management reflections of 2013, along with her forecasts for 2014. Within this post, Karen discussed Google Glass and wearable technology, an organization’s online reputation management, along with what brands can expect from 2013 graduates.
Q: Give us a brief description of who you are and what you do.
I am currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville where I teach courses in strategic communications and social media. When I am not teaching, I am doing research in the area of social media, crisis communications, public realties, and emerging media.
Note from the Editor: Karen is one of those professionals who are a must follow! If you aren’t yet following her, check her out on Twitter – and be sure to say hello!
Q: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year, when it comes to crisis / issues management and the online world?
I would say that while we are seeing more brands get online and being present on social media, we are still seeing cases where businesses and brands have not utilized social media to its ability in a crisis situation. We have seen big brands learn the hard way to make sure to secure their passwords so that they are not hacked (Burger King and Jeep) and we have seen others battle with the growing trends involving disseminating false information from others (Boston Bombing). As I mentioned in the post of the same topic last year, we have to be better and more effective in determining warning signs that can come across on social media that could lead and transform into a crisis situation. This is an area where we need to improve in the area of social media and crisis communications, and this can be done through training and education of these various issues.
Q: What are the biggest take-aways that your students have learned this year, in terms of social media and an organization’s issues management?
I would say that the biggest lesson for students is to realize that it is not only about being aware of the various platforms that are out there – they are going to continue to change and evolve as time goes on. That’s the nature of social media. However, they are focused more on the strategies that can help sustain the strategic and effective efforts to communicate to all audiences in a crisis situation. Focusing on the messages and determining how to connect the dots in meeting expectations, interests, and emotions during a crisis is crucial, and I feel that the students are more aware of that this year than previous times in my academic career.
Q: What should organizations know about 2013 graduates looking to enter the work-force in 2014? What unique values, assets, etc. do they have to offer?
I would have to say that the graduates coming out of this year’s class are highly motivated and engaged with social media. Not only have they grown up with the technology, but they are now getting the skills and training to be able to use these platforms strategically and effectively for brands and organizations. Most graduates have been exposed to social media, and some have taken a social media class in their degree program. They are getting trained to analyze and monitor brands with certification programs like Hootsuite University. In addition, they are expected to have several internships and work experience with social media before they graduate with their degrees. Overall, the graduates coming out are motivated, hard working, and excited to be entering the field involving new trends and technologies.
Q: Having explored Google Glass this year, what predictions might you have for crisis management and advanced technologies in 2014?
I do feel that wearable technologies are going to be what defines 2014, both from a crisis and non-crisis standpoint. We are seeing this now with the Google Glass explorers. We are exploring and discussing these various ideas, but we are seeing how this tool could be used in emergencies, training sessions, media relations, and even employee relations. Google Glass is being banned in certain places as a proactive measure by some brands and agencies, which makes sense. We are going to see Google Glass around more in 2014 because more people are getting the tool and using it – so this will continue to change and influence all aspects of society, including crisis communications.
Q: After re-reading your reflections and forecasts from 2012, what do you feel has changed since then and what continues to ring true and be of high importance going into 2014?
I feel that there are still some things we have to continue to work on – one is education and training. Not necessarily focusing on one platform or another, but looking at the bigger picture and educating others on how they can go about adapting these tools to their crisis communications plans. In addition, we need to explore how to continue to learn about these new tools and always brainstorm on the various scenarios we could potentially be facing with each of these platforms.
Q: What do you feel will be the most important for organizations to do in 2014, when it comes to protecting their online reputation?
I would say that online reputation management is going to continue to be a huge factor in 2014. It will continue to be the first thing that people see and react to when it comes to a brand, agency, and even individuals. Engaging in constant monitoring of the online brand and seeing what others are talking about is going to continue to be a factor and best practice for 2014. However, it is not only going to be about what the company does, but what their followers do as well. We have to consider what the reputation of each of our communities is going to be like – is it best to have a small but quality group, or a large group where the individual reputations of each of its users are all over the place? It may be interesting for brands and others to explore what reputation their communities hold – as they say – you are who you are with, so this may be something that may impact the online reputation for brands and others in 2014.