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Daa dahhh… my article, published in a new “must-read” book

When I entered my office today, I found a large envelope on my desk. Inside: A book! The first two copies of a book I contributed to. It’s a sampler with a number of articles, one of them being from me, which makes it a “must-read”… My apologies: the book is available in German only, so I’m happy to give you a quick overview about the book and – of course – my article. Full disclosure upfront: this post is pure advertising!

The book’s title is “Krisen PR“, which means, yes, you guessed right, “Crisis PR”, and was just published in the publishing unit of venerable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The subtitle says: “Masterfully manage risk and crises—the handbook for communication professionals”, which sets (and delivers) high standards. The book has some 212 pages, comes at reasonable 24.90 euros and is divided in four parts:

  1. “Think further”, which is written by my colleague and PR veteran Hartwin Möhrle, who is the editor of the book, and also CEO of one of Germany’s most distinctive PR agency A&B One in Frankfurt. This part serves as an introduction into the subject of crisis communications and outlines why crisis communications need a new, extended view on its subject.
  2. Well-crafted communications in times of crises: Case studies from Coca Cola, Deutsche Bahn, Fraport, Milupa and other experts (and yes, I’m one of them)
  3. Strategies, methodologies and tools: Description of the basics of crisis communications, but also a large section on preventing crises
  4. Training and coaching: How to find the right partners, and how they can assist on the spot in an actual crisis.
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A new book for your night stand. Now in book stores near you.

My contribution to the book is an article about the handling of social media during a crisis. The title is a little bit provocative: “Social Media Are Manageable. Even in a crisis!” My intentions were to bust the myths of social media being anarchic, beyond control and thus a challenge one cannot win. My central message is that, yes, social media is a huge challenge for communication professionals, and no, that does not mean that it is impossible to deal with social media in a crisis. Rather, I point to the opportunities that social media offer, especially if a company has a well-established social media framework, the right skills on board, and the necessary preparations in place.

The challenges are obvious and huge:

  • Speed. A recent study by renowned US law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer revealed that two thirds of all crises become globally known within 24 hours. The other third? Within one hour! This puts an enormous pressure on PR teams. There is no “golden hour” anymore. Instead, today companies deal with real-time communication.
  • Ubiquity. 2.1 billion smartphone users are making every little mishap available to everyone, everywhere and at any time.
  • Emotions. Social media are social, in the first place. Which means that companies have to be less “corporate” and more “personal”. Which is not an easy task if you feel your corporate lawyer’s breath in your neck while typing the next tweet.

But hey, no need to quit the job, there are opportunities:

  • Preparation. This is the right answer to the “speed” challenge. If the ducks are in the row, companies can use social media to enter the discussion faster than before.
  • Engagement. In lieu of publishing one-way statements and stiff press releases, companies have a channel at their finger tips to engage with their audiences, respond, react, recognize.
  • Ownership. Social media allow to communicate directly with your stakeholders, without intermediary, on your own channels. It’s sort of Pandora’s box, but it takes away a lot of steam and ensures you have control over the debate.

In case your German is proficient, here’s the link to order the book. If not, please be patient, I will write up a more detailed post about my subject in the next weeks. In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear what you think about “social media in the crisis” and if you think they are manageable or not.

2 comments

  1. This is an interesting summary and I’m eager to read the full account when you post it in English. I have to wonder two things from the points you raise. One, does the ever increasing number of social media users always equate to an increasing number of people actually hearing the message? Or does the noise from all sides drown the message out? I once heard it said that the more tests a doctor orders the less likely the results will be read. I’m wondering if the same principal applies to social media in a crisis.

    The second is a response to your question about managing the social media message. To me the real benefit of social media is that the message is not static. The engagement with readers/viewers allows for modification of the message, a “well now that you put it that way,” adjustment. So for example, the executive in St. Vincent’s is chastised for an intemperate remark suggesting that the death of a German tourist may impact the economy and then he can mitigate it with an explanation and apology that then appends to the original thought. After all, isn’t that what conversations are all about? It seems to me that “managing” of social media is really about taking advantage of the fluid nature of conversation, including the opportunity to debate and maybe even covert public opinion. Very interesting issues you are raising here.

  2. M

    Absolutely agree, Christine! The fluid nature of social media allows for “corrective measures”, but on the flipside, you need to keep the continuity in your storyline even more consistent. One thing for sure: social media needs more attention than traditional channels.

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