Experienced public relations professionals know that the most successful crisis management technique is to avoid a crisis altogether. For this reason, as well as many others, organisations should invest serious thought and time in developing and implementing a social media policy.
Social media’s pervasive growth doesn’t look like slowing any time soon. The statistics on this growth are mind-boggling and should silence any nay-sayers who’d like to write off social networking as a passing fad. As the social-media-savvy-hipsters are happy to remind us, if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest nation in the world (behind China and India) with over 640 million registered users. Read more about these statistics, presented in the Search Engine Journal; The Growth of Social Media: An Infograhic. This is why it’s useful to take some strategic advice on social media policy.
On the whole, public law and policy are being well out-paced by the rise of social media, and they are not likely to close the gap considering the rate at which social media platforms are advancing in both subscriber numbers and technical capabilities. This simply means it’s vital for organisations to be proactive and employ a strategic planning approach to direct their activities and behaviour in the social networking sphere.
Social media channels present huge opportunities by their reach, popularity, and innate functions. With opportunity comes risk, but much of this risk can be mitigated simply by being prepared. An organisation should consider all the ways social media touches its activities and develop a supporting policy framework accordingly. This framework needs to reach well beyond the immediate and obvious functions that social media might serve in marketing or public relations tactics.
Organisations that previously avoided social media altogether are starting to acknowledge that they won’t escape its reach forever. Where there is an internal PR function, often the people who work in public relations are tasked with the responsibility of preparing a policy.
So where to begin? Start with a comprehensive environmental scan of your organisation’s position and line of business. Look at what you do now, what you’ll be doing in the future, and consider any elements (across all divisions) that might be affected by social media. A solid situational analysis in this context will turn up a number of points where business and social media might intersect.
Recent cases where organisations have struggled with the challenges of social media issues present some useful examples of how far-reaching these effects might. Relevant areas range from hiring and firing, to customer feedback, and employee conduct on corporate social media sites.
Briggs Communications will examine some of these individual examples in upcoming blogs to explore current issues in social media policy development.
A successful social media policy is one that minimises risk and upholds an organisation’s brand. It should engender communications and conduct that balance company culture and necessary corporate compliance. The overall aim is to support the integrity, openness, and trust between an organisation and its many stakeholders.
One thing is certain – if your organisation ignores the task of social media policy development until it’s really needed, it will already be too late. Avoid an unnecessary crisis by making sure this job becomes a priority in the process of your crisis management planning. If time and resources aren’t available within your public relations or communications team, engage an agency with expertise in the area to help you get a social media policy in place.
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