Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from the very talented Patrice Cloutier. Patrice is currently Team Lead for strategic communications in the Communications Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
If there’s one thing about crisis communications that was validated in 2013, it’s the absolute necessity to operationalize social listening as part of any response. It’s now clear that organizations that listen, respond better. This is because they acquire up-to-date information that is shared in real-time by some of their stakeholders.
How the story of the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco airport broke is telling of the times we live in: a passenger tweeted out!
The 4 key imperatives in a crisis
The four key imperatives in a crisis in the age of social convergence are:
- Respond: as always, but now under intense scrutiny and instant commentary on social networks;
- Alert: let your audiences know immediately that something that matters to them is happening. To be relevant, you must use mobile devices and social networks;
- Monitor, aggregate and analyze: transform social data into actionable intel that will inform your response. This will lead to better decision making;
- Engage in real-time after the initial alert is sent out: keep conversations going or someone else will fill the public space.
If bad guys in a Nairobi mall can do it on the go, so can you.
Whether you’re responding to a public safety issue or a reputation threat, listening is at the very foundation of what will shape your actions.
So what tools to use? Who’s trained to give you surge capability when you go from routine listening to ramped up social media monitoring in a crisis?
This is whole new chapter in your crisis comms plan. Social listening though is only a support element of your plan. As Chief Bill Boyd indicates: ”listening isn’t good enough!” But it’s a good start!
Social listening will help guide your response by:
- Offering an instant vehicle to demonstrate empathy and compassion;
- Providing a channel for the various types of info your audiences now expect on a continual basis from the onset of any crisis;
- Enhancing the transparency and openness under which your organization is implementing its plans.
Are there dangers in crowdsourcing some of the intel that will guide your response? Absolutely. That was an element which came to the fore after the Boston Marathon bombing, when Reddit got a lot wrong.
The reality though, is that you’ll be hopelessly out-of-date if you just rely on traditional info gathering methods.
Be warned. The world moves fast. You must too!