(Writer’s note: Every day in March we’ll have a fresh, free, new article on this topic. If you’d like to dig deeper, you may wish to purchase a recording of the teleseminar called Social Media & Crisis Communications. Here is your purchase link.)
By Gerard Braud
Your first choice when “it” hits the fan should be to use the crisis communications channels that you have the greatest control over, that reach the broadest audiences, and that offer you the greatest stability.
Many people think you can’t control the media, but I have a long track record of controlling the media with spokespeople that I have put through a thorough media training class.
Good media training means going far beyond developing three key messages. I think the three key message system is bull. Simply giving an executive three bullet points and asking them to talk and ad lib about those issues as much as possible in an interview is often a recipe for disaster. Many are not naturally gifted at filtering their words on the fly. Many might hit the bullet points, but phrase their answers in a negative nature, rather than in a positive sentence structure.
Ask yourself, why would you ask a spokesperson to completely ad lib an interview with bullet points, when you could achieve better results by giving them time to internalize, carefully worded sentences with a positive sentence structure?
I believe that the key to successful media training is being able to tell a deep story. The story should be filled with quotes from the minute your spokesperson opens their mouth. The spokesperson should be trained to end each answer in a place that creates a cliffhanger, and generates a question that they want to be asked. To that extent, you control the message, you control the questions, and therefore you also control the media.
I’ll get to my priority list of tools later, but first let’s look at a case study that shows the dangers of depending upon social media and why it is a bad fit.
Have you ever gotten the smiley whale page on Twitter? It’s the page that says Twitter is over capacity. If you are depending upon Twitter to handle your crisis communications and Twitter is over capacity, you are screwed. In a crisis, chatter increases on both land based and cell phone networks, as well as on social media sites. Making social media a high priority is a bad idea because the probability exists for those tools to fail you when you anticipated that you would need them the most.
The next reason I think social media is a bad fit is because the sites and profiles are so very easy to hack. This happened to Burger King recently. Their entire account was hacked. Read more about it in one of my previous articles.
Beyond the straight Twitter hack, in seconds someone can create a profile with a name that is similar to your profile, causing confusion for the social media audience. Additionally, security is low on social media sites. Virtually everyone I know who uses Facebook has received a direct message from a friend who is allegedly in London, has been allegedly mugged, and who is allegedly asking you to wire money to them because their credit cards and cash have been stolen. This is a hack. The hacker uses deductive reasoning to determine a password.
How many of us have received a Tweet from a friend tells us they made an extra $500 last week and that I can too if I link a website? Or a friend sends a link that says someone has posted a compromising picture of you online. Those messages all came from Twitter accounts that had been hacked. My point is some social media is a bad fit because it is vulnerable to failure and the fix is beyond your control.
Take out your to-do list and schedule time to evaluate which forms of communications are a bad fit and which forms of communications are the right fit.