Preparing for crisis

Many of the leaders I meet at the moment have serious reservations about social media (SM) due to the risk it represents to their organisation and I actually think they have a point. Having spent some time in and around SM experts I can see that there is a lot of misdirected enthusiasm that offers more danger than people realise.

Don’t get me wrong; whether it’s over social media or through a person-to-person discussion, people are brilliant at self-regulating and largely deal with each other responsibly. However, from time to time, all organisations will deal with situations that are less than ideal and they need to prepare themselves responsibly.

In Kung-fu they tell you to start with your foundation before moving on to the more complex techniques and it’s the same with social media. SM charters/policies are not sexy but they are a necessary step in the responsible adoption of SM.

You see… As it turns out, the real secret to handling crisis through Social Media is to get your ducks in a row before it happens.

So over the last period there have been 2 great pieces of research that have come to my attention that when combined offer people a great insight into how to manage social media in a crisis.

The first is the work done by Altimeters report on Social Business Readiness (link below) while the other is BJ Fogg who has done some great work in understanding models of behaviour (link also below).

Altimeters report is a great insight on the basics that are required when establishing an SM presence, however none of it should be new. PR professionals across the world are able to elaborate at length about the efforts and time that go into preparing for crisis. Like many pieces of seminal work, the Altimeter report consolidates things that are already known, but oddly ignored by most organisations.

If you are looking to establish a communication channel such as social media, make sure you do your homework and put into place the framework Altimeter suggests.

The importance of the other report is less obvious upfront but more critical when taken within the context of responding to crisis; BJ Fogg’s report on models of behaviour.

BJ’s work is about behaviours. His model relates to the factors required to get people to take action either in an online context (such as likeing a product page), or in life in general. The model is the combination of 3 elements, the motivation to complete an action, the ability to be able to complete it and an initial trigger that sparks you into action.

BJ’s theory is that technology has dramatically lowered the required ability to take action but even with these technological improvements and the right motivation, they are not enough to inspire action. The final piece in spurring action, according to BJ, is a trigger that inspires movement to the motivation – it seems logical.

BJ’s work is brilliant for planning an approach for developing an online engagement model and can assist people to think about the basics of what and how they are looking for people to engage.

So what has this got to do with crisis? Well… everything as it happens.

So while this model is intended to outline a path toward a preferred behaviour, it also acts a framework to backward engineer and understand why a crisis has hit in the first place.

A complete and accurate understanding of the trigger that led to the crisis is a good starting point and critical in tailoring your response. Whether it’s the Arab Spring, or airlines breaking guitars, understanding the complete story of the trigger is the foundation of your crisis response.

The next step is to understand the motivation behind the action. While the trigger will provide the initial story, the motivation will give you the underlying themes and allow you to gauge the depth and breadth of whats going on.  Understanding this will assist determine the size of your response.

Finally, ability… As mentioned the ability to act is greatly enhanced by modern technologies. Understanding the technical framework and functions that have been leveraged to generate the crisis will provide the mediums and the “how” of your response.

Of course you still need to pull it all together, but if you have the Altimeter frameworks and BJ’s understanding then the solution will often become self-evident.