Planning and Preparedness of Social Media Campaigns

Social Media Crisis Communications
July 30, 2014

Last week I went to a lecture held by the CIPR titled, ‘Plan, Prepare and Measure your Social Media Campaign’, and like many events of this sort you are reminded of information that you have forgotten but you hope to take away ideas that you can employ in your own business.

However, what attracted me to the event was the lecture presented by Toni Cowan-Brown, EMEA Deputy Digital Practice Leader at Burson-Marsteller on ‘Crisis Preparedness on Social Media Platforms’. But more of that in a minute…

Laura Oliver, Social and Community Editor at the Guardian discussed the relevance of a number of social media channels, which were familiar to most attendees but she highlighted what the Guardian saw as the relative strengths and weaknesses of each channel. Laura spoke a great deal about engagement and how members of the numerous channels run by the newspaper provided news and photos. It occurred to me that those very members represent a cohort of unpaid journalists, similar to Sahara web, and the cynic might say that even with the benefit of this band of volunteers the Guardian continues to lose money. Discuss!

The star of the show for me was Andrew Bruce Smith, a social media analytics guru without doubt! He tackled the question that clients regularly ask me: ” How do you measure the ROI for any social media campaign?” I always felt that my answer was somewhat vague butI was pleased to find that in fact I am in the same boat as everyone else in the PR industry. The good news is that technology that can track the impact of social media is starting to emerge. Such tools should prove the positive contribution social media can make to the maintenance of brand visibility and ultimately sales generation.

Andrew went to the same school of cynicism as myself and I was pleased to see him tackle the whole issue of purchased followers admitting the distortion that such “ghost” followers can have on any analytics. I also liked the injection of realism and the conundrum that most agencies/companies will not separate out these followers because at the end of the day the board always likes to see the big numbers.

Now onto ‘Crisis Preparedness on Social Media Platforms’

In my mind there are two types of crisis. A crisis where people die and a crisis where they do not and the two are very different. This subject of course is brought into sharp focus with the downing of flight MH17 in the Ukraine. I was expecting to hear solid recommendations of best practice in social media crisis communications planning so that I could benchmark these ideas against my own agency’s client crisis plans. Sadly I was disappointed as we were served with broad generalities and general platitudes which could be gleaned from any of the multitude of crisis communication books available from Amazon at a third of the price of attending the event.

I read somewhere that only 19% of Communication Directors have faced a true full blown communications crisis in their careers. Whether that is true or not, being asked the question on live TV, “How can you stand here making excuses when sixteen people are dead”, is an experience for which no media training can provide adequate preparation. Let me make my position plain, I do not know Toni, and she may well have faced those same questions as myself but I was expecting more and that’s what I and other attendees wanted to hear.

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