As you know from reading my blog, one of my great interests is online reputation management, particularly in times of crisis. At Weber Shandwick, we have conducted research starting way back on this topic….from Safeguarding Reputation to Risky Business: Reputations Online to Reputation Warfare and more to come. This past week I learned of some new research from Altimeter Group, authored by Jeremiah Owyang. They surveyed 144 social business program managers as well as conducting interviews with 63 corporate practitioners and providers. This included our very own David Krejci in our Digital Communications group about our social media crisis simulator Firebell. I liked David’s quote (“experience the paralysis”) which is what Firebell does – it gives you the heart attack moment when social media has your company in its sights. Since digital defense has been an important element of what we do, we were delighted to share information on this resource. Some of the facts (read the full report here) worth noting are as follows:
- Be prepared. More than three-quarters of social media crises could have been diminished or averted if companies had invested their resources internally and strategically. Of the advanced companies identified by Altimeter, 13 of the 18 have a clearly defined crisis plan with clear roles, responsibilities and action steps. But they found that 56% of all companies had no clearly defined plan (that’s when the paralysis sets in).
- Companies need social media policies. These policies guide employees on how to participate in the social universe. Left unguided, employees are uncertain or oblivious how to participate online and probably do so and go off the guard rails. Reputational risk is heightened, not lessened, when no social media policy is in place. In their survey, 83% of all companies they surveyed had a formal policy in place but among the more advanced ones, all 18 or 100% did. Interestingly, 8% had a policy specifically prohibiting employees from engaging on behalf of their companies. While I have traveled around the world, I have seen this to be true but it does not seem to deter most people and in fact, most definitely increases anonymity online.
- Ongoing education is critical to managing online crises well. I found this section of the report very helpful because there is so much more that companies can do. An example was given of a company that has a certification program with over 60 online courses. Companies could certainly do better at social media training, whether it be brown bag lunches, speaker series, internal newsletters, etc.
- Create a scalable hub and spoke system to lead the social media strategy. The more advanced companies have a center of excellence at the hub with oversight for strategy, governance, training and education, measurement and vendor identification. The centralized hub works closely with the cross-functional and cross-business unit support teams (the spokes) to support the overarching strategy and common policies. The hub is usually operated through marketing and/or corporate communications. This corporate social media team typically consists of 11 people.
There is a lot of good common sense and best practice advice in this report. Take a look. We have a lot of work ahead of us to make our companies digitally safe.