I had the privilege of conducting a webinar for a number of members of an industry coalition that often finds itself as a target of numerous pressure groups on a regular basis. These pressure groups target the consumers of this industry in an attempt to embarrass the company into making changes the pressure groups feel are important.
There were five suggested strategies from the webinar that I presented to attendees. I feel these same five strategies are relevant to anyone who regular deals with an opponent, stakeholder group or any other coordinated efforts to damage their organization’s brand or otherwise cause trouble. Below is my advice on how to weather the storm in the digital space:
A house cannot withstand a hurricane if it doesn’t have a solid foundation and reinforced framing. It is never a good idea to start making plans on how to address a crisis once a campaign against your organization has already begun. Instead, it is important to start thinking about what possible issues could come up and what a communication and engagement plan under such a scenario would look like. While every campaign is different, an online campaign leaves a digital trail that you can analyze to better anticipate what may be coming.
Extending from that preparation, you should be defining who does what long before any crisis hits. When you need to react quickly and speed is an asset, it is crucial that everyone knows what they are responsible for in that circumstance. Now is the time to work out policies and procedures that you will rely on in a crisis. You can also work out draft responses, commenting policies and chains of approval so you can execute your plan without potentially disastrous internal delays.
If your plan involves outreach to bloggers, journalists, Facebook fans or any other online influencers, it is important that your first point of contact is not when you are in the middle of a crisis. This is akin to only talking to someone when you need something from them – and we all know how popular those people are. In calmer weather, start identifying who are the important figures within your target audience. Reach out to them and find ways that you can help them to begin to build that bank of goodwill you will need if you become a target.
Think Like Them
In anything you do in the online or social space, you must put those plans through a “critical filter”. This involves asking yourself how a potential or known opponent would take that contest, campaign or promotion and use it to their advantage. This process helps to bulletproof – to the extent possible – your efforts so you aren’t caught off guard. Think about what the reaction would be of someone who really doesn’t like you or your organization. If you are honest with yourself and can’t really find an angle opponents could use to hit you with, you are likely on solid ground.
Social media can often be your early warning sign that bigger things are on the way or a crisis is brewing. It is important to constantly monitoring what others are saying about your organization, whether they are fans or foes. This does take resources (as does everything else on this list) in terms of staff time, but it can pay off when you nip the situation in the bud. It will also help you understand whether the problem is contained to one or a few angry individuals or it is part of a wider, coordinated effort to hurt your organization.
Of course, one never knows when the next crisis will hit. These strategies help you prepare for a potential campaign against your organization so you can better weather the storm. Comments? Do you have any tips or suggestions? Please contribute below.