Digital Crisis Preparation: You Think You’re Ready. But, Are You Really?

December 11, 2018

It takes mere seconds for an image or message or video to be shared and seen by thousands – potentially millions – around the world. When the image is brand boosting and positive, that’s great news! You’ve gone viral and your stock price, customer base and employee satisfaction are on the rise. When it is negative – the opposite can be true.

Most brands are prepared to face the inevitable online detractors, from unhappy customers to random internet trolls. But are they ready for a more significant crisis on social media? Are they able to react quickly and in a way that is appropriate? Companies can make things worse by overreacting OR under-reacting and things can go downhill from there. How often have you seen a company make a situation worse by responding poorly?

At Mastermind, we help our customers respond consistently and authentically to both positive AND negative feedback online. But planning for a true digital or social crisis is imperative. We help our Fortune 500 clients around the world minimize disruption and negative brand impact by using the three Ps: planning, process and practice.

Thorough PLANNING is at the center of all we do. Our crisis planning is built on the same communications foundation with established brand voice and tone, general messaging approach and client engagement process. There are several components that go into our crisis planning including: a step-by-step response protocol, response team flowchart, issues scorecard, list of possible scenarios, customizable template responses, regularly updated statements, Q&As and digital elements such as dark sites, paid media and mobile apps.

None of these individual components is particularly unique. The difference that we’ve found between companies that do this well and those that may struggle is the degree to which the planning is comprehensive and cohesive. Each component of crisis planning needs to work together and the PROCESS needs to be used with consistency.

An issues scorecard helps establish a consistent method for evaluating topics that arise, which is critical because managing an online crisis requires quick decision-making. Once a topic has a ‘score,’ the response flow chart provides direction for how to respond, who needs to be informed and involved, and which of the response tools should be utilized with what frequency/pace.

Once the planning is in place, the team can be sure that everyone involved with managing the social media response for a brand is working with the same clearly defined steps – from the same playbook. If the process is used regularly, the team can make adjustments to the plan that accommodate internal shifts or changes in the market.

Every time the process is utilized, the team has an opportunity to PRACTICE. In order to ensure that the team is fully prepared, however, Mastermind has found it invaluable to convene a crisis exercise for the team. An exercise allows the team to practice by testing the plan against scenarios that are possible, but beyond the scope of typical, day-to-day crises. How seamlessly does the team execute the process? We always make sure to revisit and revise throughout the year. It is always better to know the answers to these questions when the stakes are low – before a significant, real crisis hits.

While there’s no way to anticipate every possible crisis, Mastermind helps our clients rest well in the knowledge that the team is prepared and capable of responding quickly and appropriately thanks to using the three Ps: planning, process and practice.


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