Protect your reputation from a social media crisis

June 23, 2014 by Jonathan Hemus

With more information being created and shared online, it’s essential that organisations protect their reputation from a social media crisis.

In our latest report, “The impact of social media on reputation management – navigating a new legal and communication landscape” we consider the implications of social media on reputation management from both a legal and communications perspective and the steps organisations can take to prevent or manage a social media crisis.

Here are four key areas to consider to help organisations navigate the new landscape, protect their reputations and ensure they avoid getting into legal hot water.

1) Predict and plan

Without question, organisations should review their reputational risk assessment and scenario plan how potential social media risks would play out. This will enable them to take preventative steps and plan responses should the risk emerge.

Knowing how quickly information spreads online, organisations must also assemble the necessary resources to respond effectively before a crisis occurs. This includes providing crisis management training for their crisis management team, media spokespeople and frontliners (security guards, switchboard staff, receptionists and your salesforce for example).

Communications teams need to be able to respond fast and position themselves as the most credible source of information when a crisis hits. This means having a thorough social media monitoring system in place so they know what’s being said about them and adapting any existing approval processes to avoid potential delays. That said, a speedy response should never be at the expense of accuracy and if content can’t be verified, it shouldn’t be posted.

2) Prevent own goals

It’s easy for personal and professional boundaries to become blurred on social media so you should introduce a clear social media policy and ensure staff are properly briefed on it.

Posts should be treated with the same care given to an article for the front page of the FT and other people’s statements should never be retweeted or forwarded unless their accuracy has been verified. It’s also worth noting that posting a question, hinting at or adding ‘allegedly’ after a statement doesn’t give organisations a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

 3) Monitor and respond

Organisations should track what is being said about them online and if they have any concerns, they should seek advice from legal and communications professionals. Inaccurate reporting needs to be nipped in the bud using the relevant take down procedure or a legal request in the last resort.

4) Review

And finally, when a crisis is over, organisations must ensure they conduct a post-crisis review. This should involve the communications professionals and the lawyers and is an opportunity to assess whether the right resources are in place.

Lawyers and communicators: partners in reputation protection

Although they apply different expertise, lawyers and communicators share the same objective: to protect an organisation’s reputation from harm. Best advice will be provided when there is trust and respect between the two so organisations should look for opportunities to involve both parties in the crisis management process. This includes reputational risk assessments, scenario planning and crisis simulation exercises.

To read more about the implications of social media on reputation management, download our report: “The impact of social media on reputation management – navigating a new legal and communication landscape.”

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