There’s lot of talk these days about the use of social media in responding to a crisis. Traditionalists feel that being that transparent in a crisis is just a bad idea. “Control the messages,” they shout. Others say “Engage genuinely and quickly – it’ll go a long way to preserving your reputation.”
Mark me down as in favor of PR people getting down to business in their organizations to incorporate the new tools now (in anticipation of their great value in a crisis). Earlier this year, the Cork’d episode convinced me. Gary Vaynerchuk’s handling was good.
While there has been traditional media coverage of the techniques, tips and tactics of social media use in a crisis, and while bloggers have given many possible uses, as Tracy Weise does in her recent blog The Side Note, there is a place to start way before the strategy and tactics of social media are considered. Consider the following:
Values work in every case. Can you make your values known and yourself more accessible using the social media tools and community you have built?
There’s a big difference between deciding and doing. Deputizing communicators, monitoring channels and acting decisively all take an extreme execution-oriented, enthusiastic mindset. Jim Clarke says just reading about execution left him a bit cold. It’s nothing without instilling enthusiasm, he argues in Business Execution: What I Learned from the High School Dance Team.
Don’t overlook what’s real. Meeting the crisis head-on is good leadership. A good leader sees the patterns in the crisis, recognizes the importance of the elements before her and has the fortitude to call reality what it is – all against the backdrop of what’s best for the group she leads.
See forests and trees. A good leader brings context to the crisis, and at the same time sees the individual pieces of the issues faced in the crisis. The ability to tap the knowledge of various members of the community is always at work, giving the leader access to the key details, but not so much as to become lost in them.
There are many roads to the same destination. The leader’s grasp of the problems in a crisis allows for far-reaching and embracing searches for solutions.
Teamwork aids success. Recovery and long-term support for solutions are dependent upon buy-in from many stakeholders, and a leader who invites questions can also be a strong leader in tough circumstances.
Ask the mutterers to speak up. While it might make it more pleasant to hear choruses of “yes!” from like-minded folks, strong leaders seek out those who bring a different perspective.
Optimistic, bold & zen. Times of crisis are full of potential to second guess, miss on execution and generate excess nervous energy. Doing the right thing, doing it boldly and allowing those second guesses to enter and leave the mind even as you are acting can be a powerful way to engage with others.
Take risk in the face of risk. There are questions to which we do not know the answers in crises — all the better to get engaged. Take the risk of asking your community.
80 percent rule. An imperfect decision can often be better than making no decision at all — go if you have 80% of what you think you need.
Prepare to admit mistakes. Leaders who take calculated risks will undoubtedly make mistakes at some point. (Crises require continuous decision making.) Leaders who want to be seen as all powerful aren’t of much real use in a crisis.
Running this mental checklist before taking on the question of the use of social media in a crisis may assure that the organization has the fortitude to step into the stream.