As a community manager, a social rant gone viral is a very real fear of mine. In my experience, I find that you never really know what’s going to stir up a community. You can assume, you can anticipate and you can prepare, but are you truly ready?
There have been times in my past where a situation will occur and I wonder if the community will bounce back. However, they always surprise me. They come back and they rally around us after we put a message out there to explain the “Who, What and Why” of a situation. What’s the secret? For us, it’s been the right mix of transparency and empathy. But more importantly, it’s been timing. Namely, it’s the 60 minutes you have between the moment that something occurs on your social page to resolving the issue. It’s the Social Power Hour. Most of what I learn about dealing with crisis, I’ve learned from Jim Lukaszewski. A powerful crisis communications expert who believes in the urgency and consistency of your message at time when all eyes are on you.
Why do you get only an hour? We found that if you don’t respond and address an issue within an hour that whatever you say after that time lapse isn’t as authentic. The mind of your community is made up and your message that you worked so hard on is nothing more than “corporate talk.”
One of the key things I’ve learned as a community manager is that education and experience will only take you so far. There are no two situations alike so there are no two outcomes the same. Your education will tell you what to do, but your intuition will tell you how to do it. This is when the clock starts ticking.
Here are 5 things that need to be accomplished during that first hour in order for your business to succeed in a time of social crisis.
1. Put out the fire
Whether it’s causing harm, commotion, or conversations – make it stop. Don’t waste anytime in putting an end to whatever is causing the crisis.
2. Handle the victims
Deal with the repercussions of the crisis. Personally get in touch with those directly harmed from the crisis. I often find that it’s extremely helpful to get on the phone with one or two of the victims. Afterwards, they tend to post a message on the social media channels that read something along the lines of “I talked to someone and they were so helpful!” (See example below)
3. Communicate to the employees
This is key because we often find that employees are going to talk whether or not you give them the information. Don’t let gossip or office talks hinder an ongoing crisis communications plan.
4. Address those indirectly affected
If your company deals with a lot of sponsorships or vendors, give them a heads up. Anyone publicly tied to your brand can be affected if that social user decides to take their message off your pages and onto those. If you prepare them with social messaging, you’ll have a cohesive message that is much stronger to a reader.
5. Deal with the self appointed
There are those out there that voluntarily opt-in to your messages that are seeking scandal. These people can be disgruntled former employees or customers, competitors and the media. As tempting as it is to start with number 5 and work your way through 1-4, it’s not good practice. As you craft your message for the first steps, you’ll find by the time you get to number 5, it’s solid.
Here are some other helpful tips when dealing with a time of social crisis:
- Vary your message a bit. Once you craft the message that you’re comfortable going out with, change it up a bit so the overall stance is the same but you don’t appear to be copying/pasting across your social channels. Address someone personally with his or her name, take out or add a few additional words here and there. If a message looks static, it loses its value.
- Try to grab a few experts if you can for a more efficient use of your hour. Look for a PR rep, copywriter or business manager on your team that can help look at your overall message from a different perspective.
- On the same note, don’t invite someone in who will make edits to your message that is not necessary. Remember, you have one hour so streamline the process where you can.
Social media rants will happen to any brand at any time. Be smart and concise about your message. Keep it the same on every channel and follow the steps above. Make the most of your hour and you’ll see success in the outcome.
We’re thrilled to announce that we were recently named Agency of Record for the Jacksonville Jaguars. West Herford, partner and managing director at On Ideas, says it best: “We are Jaguars fans to the bone, and embrace the opportunity to reconnect the team with the fans and the Jacksonville community in meaningful ways.” Go Jags! http://bit.ly/1gBEbxY
Wow! October 1st, 2013 was a very big day. The government shut down, the Affordable Health Care Exchanges opened (and the government’s website crashed with the volume), and On Ideas turned 8 years old!
We, of course, used the occasion to celebrate, as we should. But it made me think back to my start at the agency. I came to work for On Ideas shortly after its creation, in early 2006. Having spent the last 30 years on the “client side”, working with a variety of agencies, I thought the transition would be a natural one. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was like a fish out of water. To me, I had entered the most dysfunctional environment that ever existed. In those early weeks, you could never have convinced me that I’d still be here 8 years later. No way!
It wasn’t just that I was handed a Mac (that’s what everybody in the world uses or so they think in the agency world). For me, it was like driving on the opposite side of the road. And there was always a crisis, a client that needed a job yesterday and the resulting growling and gnashing of teeth from the creative department, with AE’s tip toeing around, trying to be invisible. And why couldn’t we ever finish a job early? Did these people just like biting their nails and working until 3:00 in the morning? I vowed to change all that- I’ll create processes and they’ll be forever in my debt, I thought.
I almost laughed out loud remembering my early days at On Ideas. I even remember Tom Bolling asking me if I liked it there and I answered honestly, “I don’t know yet”. Although I think I’ve made some contributions to On Ideas, I know that the agency has contributed more to me. It opened my eyes and freed me from the corporate conventions that I thought had to be the foundation for all businesses. Over time (most definitely, it took time), I began to embrace the quirkiness. I mean working for two creative guys that also happen to be best friends and a little crazy turned out to be lots of fun.
I also saw talent that startled and delighted me day after day. To witness the development of a creative solution to a very complex business problem is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have and I get to have that every day. There were other things that I learned to love. We don’t put up with under-performers, like in the corporate world. There just isn’t time for that. So, instead of writing memos and cya, we deal with it and move on. How refreshing!
I also learned that it’s not that these crazy people, that I now consider my friends, like to work unbelievable hours. They could finish a job early. It just wouldn’t be as good. They use every second they have to enhance and make better. They’re never satisfied. What do we always quote Frank as saying? “Good is the enemy of great.”
I freely admit, I’m still more uptight and buttoned up than most of the other people at On Ideas. I never totally purged the corporate world from my heart and soul. But, those processes that I was going to put in place? I was very careful not to overdo it. The agency does fine with a minimum amount of process. I still like to finish my projects early, but that’s just my Type A personality. I know my colleagues will always come through with great work and put endless time and energy into it.
If On Ideas were a child of 8, it would be in third grade. That pretty much sums it up. Sometimes going to work in this nutty place is like going to third grade every day. How cool is that?
P.S. I’ll never give up my Mac!
The phrase of the day is “Follow Through”! I feel like a slacker after reading about two digital technologists who work in advertising out of Nashville, TN. They have dedicated the past 90 days to creating something new, all in the name of doing.
The two have come up with the ambitious effort to create something entirely new every day for 90 days. Matt Colangelo and Dave Pittman are hunkered down in an artist space where they are entering the final stretch of the project. Just think of the countless times we’ve all thought of a great idea while out to dinner with friends, or at a bar, or in the midst of a personal crisis, only to let that fabulous thunderbolt of thought just wither away “like a raisin in the sun”.
Well, not me; not anymore! I’m following through on some of my ideas, just like those guys. While I can’t claim to be a part of the “maker culture,” I’m not an engineer, craftsmen-DIY’er, or even a creative technologist, like my colleague, Lance Korson, I’m in PR. I don’t “make” anything but maybe a press release or a great shot when I’m on the tennis courts now and then. But what I can do is follow through with some of my ideas both at work and outside of work.
Colangelo and Pittman made me wish that I had only done something with all of the screenplays I’ve come up with while talking smack to one of my besties. I’m not saying Tyler Perry stole my ideas, but some of the similarities to my mind’s screen plays are eerily familiar! IJS. But I can’t knock someone’s hustle (as the kids say). I can only vow to do better and follow through with some of my grand ideas, even if they fail. So tell me, what are you ready to follow through on?
I’m not sure what TV station I was tuned into last week but it was one of the several that cover the financial world. It really was just background noise while I was slaving over a laborious, time consuming, yet mindless home project. But it quickly became more than background noise when breaking news came on about JC Penney board member, Bill Ackman, scolding the company’s board for dragging its feet and offering up former CEO, Allen Questrom, as a new Chairman of the Board.
All of this was quite interesting and I won’t even comment about the instability within the company that this announcement displayed. What I found most interesting is what came later as this story unfolded live on the air.
Within 10 minutes of reading Ackman’s letter and predicting the effect that it would have on the JCP stock, the station had Allen Questrom on the phone, giving a live interview. I understand that this man is considered a retail super hero but I was floored by his comments about the company’s new CMO, when he was asked what he thought of her.
First of all, she was never mentioned by name, although I knew it was Debra Berman. He said he “thought” it was a woman and that she came from Kraft and had worked at several ad agencies. As an “old retailer”, he disagreed with her hire saying, “this company needs someone with solid retailing experience, not the ad agency type of experience”.
Well, Mr. Questrom, I too am an “old retailer” and I’ve been through a significant company turnaround. Retailers always have to be reactive, making sure that sales targets are met, and do anything they can to make those sales. I understand too that public companies have to take certain steps to positively influence Wall Street. But I honestly think that the board and the interim CEO, Mike Ullman, may have just made the smartest move in the company’s history by appointing Debra Berman as Chief Marketing Office.
I don’t know her at all but you see, Mr. Questrom, JCP is a tarnished brand. Ms. Berman has the toughest job in the company because she needs to rebuild the brand. She needs to learn who the audience is or can be, what they need and want. And she needs to define the brand all over again, making it relevant to today’s consumer. Her experience tells me that she knows how to do this. Agencies are brand builders. I hope she doesn’t have to do this while merchandisers and operators try to implement “hail Mary promotions” in an effort to see what sticks. Sometimes, that what old retailers do. They resort to the strategies and tactics that worked in the past. Well, the past is behind JCP and the company needs fresh thinking and new leadership.
I’ll be watching Ms. Berman. She can’t do it alone. She’ll need the support of a strong leadership team and a CEO that can have everyone living the new brand, however it is defined. Whether or not she has time to remake the brand before the company goes belly-up is questionable. But I’ll be rooting for her.