Thursday, 18 April 2013

Crisis Communication using Social Media

Image courtesy of sheelamohan at

The more effectively we communicate the better results we will get, be that in our personal lives and in business. Most crisis' arise from a lack of communication. With this is mind how can we be proactive instead of always being reactive?

The next question we need to ask is ... Have we actually changed the way we communicate or is it just better enabled with new tools offered via social media?

Well it certainly has become more interactive and this interaction has been enabled by social media.

Do we enable interaction in the way we communicate or even expect it, or are we simply saying what we think people want to hear? Which of course raises another question and that is; what are our peers saying and how did we formulate our opinion in the first place. Certainly if we were listening, and we use up to date relevant information our opinions become worthwhile for others.  

With Social Media our peers are having conversations all around us, and these are conversations that we can listen to and be part of if we feel we have something valid to say. In most cases we observe what is happening and gather information.

So what happens when something is said that directly effects you or the company you work for? Most people get on the defensive first and without understanding the full context start reacting, usually over reacting without careful thought. 

Over reacting in any form of communication can be dangerous, but Social Media will only amplify these reactions and the chance to apologize or fix what has been said is minimized. With this in mind most people chose rather not to participate and play it safe. However playing it safe is extremely risky in the new world we live in, people will easily perceive you as hiding something rather than perceive you as playing it safe.

So what is the solution and how do we communicate in this challenging and unforgiving world of the informed and enabled? The real key is to develop a high EQ (emotional intelligence) by focusing on some of the following aspects:

  • Don't take offense
  • Give up the need to always be right
  • Forgive and forget
These three basics of Emotional Intelligence is what causes most of the hurts and misunderstandings within people and organisations. Once we understand that the world is not governed by laws but that self-regulation and peer-regulation has become so prevalent and effective we will realize that we are no longer on our own and that if we spent enough time building relationships - that these relationships would form our best defense against the attacks that might come our way in the form of criticism and slander.

What to do when the attack comes?

Realize that most attacks come from disgruntled people and that invariably the attack is not actually of a personal nature, but rather that the disgruntled person only wants a vent for their anger, and it may or may not have been caused by anything you or your specific organization may have done.

  • Respond with empathy without being weak, answer the question and not the emotion.
  • Never say the word 'Sorry', if necessary apologize for the way they feel.
  • Seek continued conversation rather than giving a once off solution, remember you main objective is to build relationship and not show you are right.
  • Use words that would allow them to see that you have authority and that you are trying to assist them and understand as much as possible.
  • Asking simple questions shows that you are fully wanting to understand.
  • Never respond to any personal attacks or acknowledge anything that is said to you of a personal nature. 
  • Keep all conversations professional, no matter what the circumstance you are always building a  professional relationship of respect first.
  • Never use political excuses and blame someone else for the situation, take full responsibility and allow the conversation to arrive at the solutions.
Take note of other parties that may be involved in your conversation, never assume that an answer given to one person will be the answer that everyone accepts, rather address each person separately and answer their specifics even if it may seem like you repeating yourself.

Remember that during this crisis period that you need to stop other communication that may give a conflicting message to your followers. 

Also remember that  should something have happened in the News that may be tragic - allow people a time for mourning - so don't try and sell to them, show some respect and allow people time to mourn.

What else would you add to this posting?