Crisis Communication for Business – Why having an effective social listening strategy is key

We recently wrote a post looking at Communicating during a crisis – why great strategy and preparation is key.   Many of these lessons were relevant for emergency services, and how they could approach communicating to their audiences during natural disasters, like the recent bushfires in Australia.

So what can business learn?

While the same foundations of accuracy, relevance and currency should remain, there are some differences between how emergency services can communicate compared to a for profit organisation.

If you haven't read the previous post, take some time to do that now to get across how a crisis unfolds, through the Anticipatory Period, Core Event, and Aftermath, and how communication needs change during these periods.

Key Differences

Can a bank use the same approach during an ATM outage as that seen for a natural disaster?

The main difference between a bank and an emergency service, such as the State Emergency Service, is that a bank will know who the affected people are.

When something such as an ATM outage happens, that bank has the ability to proactively communicate to customers, through a number of different channels.

However, we've all been caught out when our card doesn't work or when we try to connect to our bank to find out what's going on, only to get little to no response.

A "Crisis"

The first thing to do is to understand if the situation is really a crisis. Some, such as an outage, are obvious while others are a little more subtle.

We have worked with organisations that have proclaimed a crisis when they get a negative review, or see people commenting in a negative way to one of their social posts. 

So, how do you identify a crisis?

Social Listening

The best way to proactively determine what is and what isn't a crisis is through social listeningA social listening strategy listens to conversations on social networks.

Your social listening strategy should be engineered to pick up conversations that discuss your organisation, products, services, locations, key personnel and even competitors.

With the right strategy in place, you'll quickly see if there are any issues presenting themselves and if they are reaching crisis mode. You can also automate alerts to be sent to you when mentions about specific topics exceed a threshold.

Identifying when something hits "crisis point" is subjective, and will need to be discussed. As a general rule, we suggest that  if there is a 200% increase of mentions about a topic hour on hour, you should investigate further. 

You have a Crisis

Once you know that you have a crisis, you'll need to know what to communicate and to who.

Some crises, like the ATM outage, will affect all customers, so a broad communications plan is needed.

Other crises can affect a smaller number of customers. For example, if a theatre performance needs to be cancelled. That crisis would only directly affect that one performance, so the audience for any communications would be the people with tickets to that performance.

Once you know what the crisis is, there are five key things that you need to communicate to the audience:

  • What the crisis is
  • How it affects the customer
  • What is being done to resolve it
  • When will it be resolved
  • Where to get more information

Make sure that you have assets, such as email templates and SMS messages ready to go so you can send these communications out as soon as possible.

Ability vs Capability

I mentioned above that organisations have the ability to proactively communicate to their audience warning them of any issues. Just because they have the ability to do this, doesn't mean that they necessarily have the capability.

It’s really important that businesses plan for a crisis, moving away from the reactive practice of sending out an apology email after the event. Having assets ready to go allows your organisation to communicate quickly and effectively, reducing the frustration of the audience.

But your communications team needs more than just assets - they need to be able to filter and build audiences quickly to proactively communicate to those affected.

In the case of the ATM outage, giving customers fore-warning that they won't be able to access their money, will save a lot of contact centre time, as well as keep customers informed.

Your customers may not be "happy" about the outage, but they'll save themselves a lot of time and anguish.

Communication Types

In the previous post, we spoke mainly about social posts, as this is the primary way in which an emergency service can communicate with their audience.

When applying this to the corporate world, most businesses know who their customers are and will have communication platforms available to them. These could include:

  • Social Networks
  • Websites
  • Apps
  • Telephone IVR
  • SMS
  • Email
  • Online Chat
  • Contact Centre

During a crisis, each communication type that both you and your customer have access to should be used to communicate.

Our theatre example could use email, sms, their website, the telephone IVR and perhaps targeted social advertising to inform ticket holders of the cancellation. A bank would be expected to have all of these, and possibly more, covered off.

Be Prepared

If you want to be prepared for a crisis, your communications team needs to be proactive and can't afford to wait for other departments to help them. They need to get communications out quickly. 

To this end, the team needs to be across what the crisis is, communication assets, such as templates and supporting media, the ability to create audiences and deploy the communications.

Destined are a Platinum Salesforce Partner, with one of the largest multi cloud practices across APAC. Our dedicated Marketing Cloud and Social practice can help you to build and implement a social listening strategy to ensure that your organisation is prepared for a crisis. 

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