Most corporate public relations professionals realize that social media is important in crisis communications. But few have procedures in place for handling negative publicity in social media, according to a new survey conducted for Germany’s Gartner Communications.
In-house professionals, on average, rated the importance of social media in crisis situations at seven on a scale from 1 to 10, with more than two-thirds believing its importance will grow, according to the survey of in-house and agency professionals. But only about 20 percent of corporations surveyed have defined procedures for handling social media in a crisis, compared to 85 percent that have such procedures for handling traditional media.
“Many companies are sitting on a social media time bomb with no procedures for defusing it,” says Ulrich Gartner, the founder of Gartner Communications. “And given the instantaneous speed of social media, there is no time to figure out your procedures once the crisis hits. A Facebook or Twitter user isn’t going to wait for a statement before posting or forwarding an opinion to hundreds of friends or followers. And it just multiplies from there.”
PR agencies are at least a step ahead. More than 60 percent of firms responding are saying they offer clients defined procedures for handling social media in crisis.
“Many corporations could make big improvements by simply adapting some elements used in traditional crisis communication to dealing with social media”, Gartner says, “for example, a structured online monitoring to become aware early-on of critical opinions spreading on the web. Traditional media lists are commonplace anywhere: companies should have lists of influential bloggers on relevant topics just alike.
“Approval procedures are absolutely critical as well; if posts need to be answered on social platforms in a matter of minutes, there’s no way each statement can wait for approval by the General Manager. In social media, the deadline is always ‘now’.”