When the captain of Jet Blue flipped out during a flight to Las Vegas, it was cell phone video from the inside of the plane that made the story the lead on the national news.
The world is just now learning the consequences of everyone carrying around phones that can be used to broadcast HD video and pictures. Where we once considered ours to be an always-on society, it is becoming clear that we are an always-communicating/broadcasting world where anything you do can be sent to anyone in the world via compelling video.
Not only do we carry the devices to do this in our phones, we have the means to share it in social media. All of this puts companies in a new world of defense in their efforts to protect their reputations. Short of confiscating phones at your workplace, there is nothing you can do to stop this new kind of media coverage coming from on-the-spot citizen journalists.
The good news is that some of the tools that work against you can be employed to anticipate reputational issues and allow you to play defense during a crisis.
Here are some basic tips to keep your company prepared for the viral world:
- Monitor media coverage of your brand and your company as deeply as you possibly can. This should move beyond Google Alerts about keywords. You should be empowering your communications staff to use monitoring software that examines and analyzes your media coverage in depth.
- Use portals and tools to solicit honest feedback from your customers and take the responses very seriously. An honest opinion is invaluable in this space.
- Give consumers a way to solve their problems through online means. And, if they need to be escalated and dealt with by real people, make sure that can happen very easily.
- Don’t respond to every complaint you get, but when you find real reputational issues, don’t treat them as only topics to be pushed down by SEO tools. Determine if there are underlying problems that need to be fixed before you take on the messenger. If there are underlying problems, fix them and make sure you tell people they have been fixed.
- Have someone at your company responsible for keeping up with technology changes in all its forms. Every industry has some exposure to changes they need to be tracking whether it’s social media use by your employees or the unintended consequences of iPads at events. In the music and sports business, for example, Ustream now allows anyone to broadcast video in real-time, a change that concert promoters and sports businesses have been caught flat-footed about.
- Keep your disaster plan up-to-date at all times and make it very accessible for the employees that will be implementing it. Give a key executive the responsibility for overseeing it, and be certain that changes are made whenever employees leave or other major changes take place. The detailed plan should be posted on a password-protected website the crisis committee will be given access to.
- Look into tools like dark sites that can be put together quickly in response to reputational challenges. Have communications staff prepare documents you will need to access and post in a crisis.
- In the end, the best defense is a good offense: the good work you are doing. If you tell this story effectively and widely in all online and offline media, you will not have to work as hard in your defense as you would when most consumers doubt the value your company provides.
If you need help with your crisis communications, contact Elasticity, we have extensive experience helping national and local brands prepare for, and react to crises.