Crisis Management Reflections of 2012 and Forecasts for 2013 – by Karen Freberg

2012 has been a big year of firsts for many online crisis and online reputation management situations. As social media continues to play such a dominant role in our business’ lives, the risks involved with our online presence will continue to develop, and the need to plan ahead with a proper crisis management plan will only increase.

To close off my blog for the year, over the next three days I will be publishing online crisis management reflections of 2012 and forecasts for 2013 by three different, but very talented social media and crisis management experts.

Today we kick this series off with a lady whom I am very glad to have met this year, the fabulous Karen Freberg. Karen is a professor in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville and is also an adjunct faculty member for West Virginia University in the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Graduate Online program.

Karen’s online crisis management reflections of 2012 and forecasts for 2013

In terms of social media and online crisis management, what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in 2012?

2012 was definitely a year filled with crisis situations – we began the year with the Costa Concordia disaster in Italy to the Penn State crisis to Hurricane Sandy and now we are looking at what is going on in the NFL with the Javon Belcher tragedy and New York Post front page disaster – it has been an eventful and busy year for crisis communications professionals.  Most of the crisis situations from 2012 were manmade and could have been prevented in several circumstances – so the biggest lesson I think for 2012 is the growing need for more dedication and effort towards pre-crisis communications management.  Looking at potential early warning signs and proper training among crisis communications teams across all mediums (traditional and social media) will be key to implement in our practices for 2013.  

Some of the various crisis situations we have seen this year manifested into larger ones because of the lack of training related to social media strategy and implementation in a crisis or the lack of understanding of various characteristics associated with certain platforms (ex. Boutique firm in UK and thinking the #Aurora hashtag for the Colorado shooting was due to people talking about their dress that Kim Kardashian wore).  The growing need for education and training in social media crisis communications practices is one of the additional factors taken away from all of the crisis situations from 2012 as well.

What forecast and advice can you give to companies and organizations for their online crisis management in 2013?

I think the focus on looking at the data that is being shared, created, and disseminated online will provide crisis communications professionals a better idea of real-time reputation management practices, but this can also be a tool for crisis communicators to use this data to possibly forecast potential crisis situations and detect these emerging issues and risks online.  We have seen this already being discussed this year related to the Colorado Shooting crisis in July as well as the recent Javon Belcher crisis to see if there was anything online via social media that could have given others a sign of what was to happen.  Analyzing online data coming across various social media platforms and determining what this data means and if there are any emerging risks that could translate into possible crisis scenarios will be key to explore and discuss in the social media and crisis communications community in 2013.

What tools, channels and/or online strategies do you foresee as being the most crucial to a company’s online reputation management in 2013?

I think the best strategies that will be implemented for 2013 will focus primarily on pre-crisis communications with the focus on continuing education and monitoring not only the various conversations and data being shared, but also continuing to educate ourselves on all of the latest platforms.  We are going beyond a 24/7 mentality for crisis communicators and we have to be innovators and be on the forefront to the latest platforms and tools emerging online.  Not only do we have to be aware of the various opportunities coming with new platforms, but we have to think “how can this be used in a crisis situation and what are the various scenarios we may face with this new platform”.  Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy and Instagram.  There are certain platforms that have been aligned with certain crisis situations and this will continue even in 2013.  Specific tools that will be important to note are going to be those associated with specific platforms for measurement (Instagram and Stat.gram) and tools that give people more information and data about a situation (ex. Bottlenose and their sonar feature). 2013 is going to be the year of data visualization and strategy implementation for crisis communicators, especially in the pre-crisis stage.

Click here to discover what, crisis manager, Jane Jordan-Meier, has to say about online crisis management in 2012 and 2013.

Click here to discover what, social media expert, Scott Juba, has to say about online crisis management in 2012 and 2013.

Melissa Agnes is an international crisis management keynote speaker and consultant. President of the crisis management firm Agnes + Day, Melissa has developed a worldwide reputation for crisis management, planning and training by helping global brands and government agencies prevent and manage a wide range of issues and crises. She is also the editor of The Crisis Intelligence Blog and host of The Crisis Intelligence Podcast.

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