Questions to Avoid Crisis

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    Asking a few questions now can prevent crises later

    One of the very best ways to prevent crises is to avoid them altogether. While obviously this isn’t always possible, there are steps you can take to shift the odds in your favor. In a recent blog post, Barry Hurd, President of 123 Social Media, gave a list of 15 questions organizations should ask of themselves. Some examples:

    Who is responsible for monitoring the web for early signs of a crisis?

    If someone doesn’t have an official responsibility to monitor for signs of problems (and opportunities) – you will be doomed to a very jaded moment of finger pointing when the executive team all shrugs and says “I thought you were handling it…”

    Is your brand and mission statement integrated into a crisis plan?

    In the digital world of reputation management and crisis control, responding quickly and transparently has huge benefits.

    The simplest way to enable your team to act is to give them a direct brand and mission statement. By integrating this into the first step of your crisis plan, any employee in your organization should be able to ask a basic YES / NO question of “Do my actions support our brand and mission statement?”

    This is critical for allowing an organization to have a consistent message at all levels.

    How have you enabled your fans to support you?

    Social media has some amazing benefits that extend outside of your immediate employees and business relationships. You have access to several different layers of social networks that can be activated to help you out.

    • Friends and Family – do a survey of your immediate relationships and find out what influential connections exist within your friends and family network. These users/decision makers/influencers can radically alter the way your business is viewed online (and in the real world.) While you may be planning a reputation management strategy for a crisis, this list is also a very valuable asset to be leveraged during good times (new product launches, special announcements, brand studies, etc.)
    • Happy clients and brand evangelists – these individuals may have no real reason to do something for you… except for the fact that they like your business, what you do, or who you are. This layer of fans has numerous advantages when dealing with the ‘digital mob’ that can arise during an online crisis. Understanding how to communicate correct information to this group quickly and effectively allows them to distribute it.

    Barry’s list is a solid start, but don’t be satisfied stopping there. Every business holds its own risks – remember to include specific planning to counter those found in your niche. At my firm, we call that process a vulnerability audit, and if you’d like to see some sample questions from such an audit, email jonathan@bernsteincrisismanagement.com.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]