By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC
Here are two crisis communications and social media questions I’d like you to answer about your executive leaders:
1. Are your senior leaders active on social media?
2. If yes, which channels and platforms do they use?
Why is this critical for you to know?
If you consider yourself an expert in social media or an expert in crisis communications, your senior leaders will reject your expert suggestions if they do not understand the nuances of social media, especially during a crisis.
Whenever I’m invited to give a conference keynote speech to senior leaders and executives, I survey the room to find out who is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. From conference to conference, LinkedIn is most popular. Very few executives seem to even have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Those who do are mostly non-active.
Why should this disturb you?
Every crisis in the world is amplified by social media. We are at a crossroads in crisis communications. [On June 4, 2018 I will discuss this in depth with the International Association of Business Communications at their conference in Montreal, Canada. My presentation is called Social Media at the Crossroads.] Specifically, we are standing at the intersection of crisis communications and social media. How you, or your corporation, respond to the crisis on social media can mean the difference between successfully managing the crisis versus pouring gasoline on a fire.
The decision to engage on social media in a crisis should not be considered a forgone conclusion, as many people in public relations believe. The decision to engage must be part of a well thought out strategy that, like a game of chess, envisions all of the various moves by various respondents in the future. The wrong response makes your crisis worse in ways you cannot imagine until it all comes crashing down upon you.
An executive who is not active on social media will not understand the nuances of each strategic post, and may contribute an opinion or directive that is seriously flawed.
How should you address this?
Simply issue the same challenge to your leaders as I do when I’m on stage speaking to those audiences of 500 or more executives. I challenge them to open a Facebook account and spend 30 minutes a night on Facebook, interacting with people, reading posts, and exploring what bizarre opinions exist in this social media cyber cluster of chaos.
Don’t be caught in a war room dealing with a crisis, only to have to fight an internal battle over how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube work. Do it now. Do it before the crisis.