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Is There a Crisis In Crisis Management?

Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:00pm
Cheryl Burgess Managing Partner

We don’t live in a world where conventional risk-management textbooks prepare us for social media’s impact on brand reputations. Because of the Internet and globalization, social media threats have increased and so has the urgency of preparedness. Yet, most companies do an inadequate job of managing their reputations in general. They tend to focus energies on handling threats to brand reputation that have already arisen. This approach is crisis management – a reactive approach whose purpose is to limit the damage – and certainly not risk management.
 
Global CCOs Are Unprepared
Today, the need for crisis management is increasingly important, but still one-third of global chief communications officers (CCOs) are unprepared to handle social media threats.   According to the The Rising CCO III, an annual survey conducted by global executive search firm, Spencer Stuart and global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, 33 percent of global CCOs are not prepared for managing online reputation threats.
 
The survey also revealed that crisis/issue management has risen in importance during the past three years as a critical skill set for CCOs. According to the survey, this skill was nearly twice as important in 2010 (61 percent) compared to 2007 (33 percent). Additionally, as many as 52 percent of CCOs are striving to formalize social media efforts. 
 
It is clear that companies need to become more proactive in building social media risk management plans. To be successful, companies need to be strategic and logical when they incorporate social media into risk management plans. There are two benefits companies get from risk management. The first is a reduction in time to resolve issues and the second is an enhanced reputation due to less adverse noise.
 
Brands Are Extremely Vulnerable
Marketers have come to realize that brands are extremely vulnerable. We have seen many examples where reputations carefully built over decades can disappear overnight. Management guru Tom Peters tells us, “Branding is how our organization lives in the world.”
 
Market value is largely driven by intangible assets like brand equity and goodwill. With potentially billions of dollars on the line, we must understand social media’s dynamic power relative to the consumer.  Essentially, a brand is what the consumer says it is – not what the marketer says it is. In an age of user-generated content, “likes” and “followers,” we know the consumer has the power to shape or destroy even the best of brands. 
 
Years ago, Walter Landor said, “A brand is a promise.” Given the extreme fragility of brands today, how can we not be proactive in protecting those brands? How can crisis/risk management professionals protect brand value?  Think about it, because the risk social media brings to brand reputation is real.
 
Cheryl Burgess, co-founder and managing partner of Blue Focus Marketing, is a creative and marketing technologist with expertise in social media and B2B marketing. The winner of the 2010 Twitter Shorty Award in Marketing and a member of the 2010 B2B Twitter of the Year Awards Steering Committee can be followed on Twitter @ckburgess.

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