Now, the news cycle is probably an hour -- tops -- before it hits social media.
It used to be that if you were in a crisis, you had hours to assess and determine how to respond.
Hours is a luxury.
Six years ago, during the Arab Spring, Kenneth Cole, a clothing designer also known for provocative ad campaigns, posted a provocative tweet in the morning and didn't check back until late in the afternoon when he realized Twitter was in an uproar because he didn't update or apologize in the initial blow back.
The fact that he was in meetings and busy was seen as no excuse.
Companies no longer have hours -- they didn't even have that back in 2011 -- to contemplate a response.
We see the implications of this everyday, whether it is a tweet rant from Trump or a poorly executed tweet from a brand or media property.
Unfortunately, most companies aren't social media responsive, by which we mean: able to respond quickly to a problem involving them on social media.
Here are some steps to consider:
- Don't rely on apps that post content to also alert you to a potential problem. Posting content is very different from monitoring and generating alerts. Consider subscribing to an alert service so that you don't find out about a problem only the next time you log on to the app. Too many services -- even Twitter -- do a better job of capturing mentions without doing a good job alerting you. (We're not going to mention specific potential suppliers since some of these companies and a lot of their functionality can change very quickly.)
- Make sure appropriate trusted people within your organization have the username and passwords for all major social media platforms, and are comfortable posting onto them. Too often, the login information for a company's social media accounts are held by different people so that if a problem happens, and the person managing Twitter is in an all-day off-site, there's no one else who can access the site to try to put out a fire. Sometimes, we've seen, the person in charge of, say, Facebook, has left the company without designating someone as the administrator, only as someone who can post. It's important that trusted people can back up the main driver if that driver is out of the office. Also, for this reason, it's important to know when key people -- whether it's the social media guru or the executive to be quoted -- are on vacation or otherwise unreachable for long periods.
- Do scenario planning to practice how to respond. One hopes to never have to use a crisis plan but it really is helpful to develop one, even if just for social media. In this case, you would look at likely areas for concern -- could it be a customer complaint? A rogue tweet (meant, perhaps, for someone's personal account)? A hacked account? A legal issue? What should you do to address this issues? Without a scenario planning, you may not have an idea of what to do when seconds count.
By the way, the same should be done with a look to how to respond to the media.
For example, there used to be something known as a "day-two" story -- a story that provided a different aspect of the story getting media's attention. On the first day, the news breaks. On day two, one might pitch a story that provides more context to yesterday''s breaking news.
As with everything else, the time to develop and pitch day-two stories has shortened considerably. Now known as "news jacking," the idea of responding to breaking news and inserting your company in an appropriate and positive way, you need to respond with a contextual pitch within hours, not days. The context to the story that former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick started hitting as soon as the initial stories began hitting.
While it's true that stories still appeared about a week after he was pushed out, the names of the executives who were being quoted were big name celebrity executives like SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.
If you want to be able to position yourself as an expert to the media on a breaking news topic, you need to respond much faster than you used to in order to get coverage.
Of course, you still have time to write a blog article for your corporate blog (like this one) after the fact but that's not the same as being quoted in a reputation-making outlet, blog or podcast. Your team and the executive(s) in charge have to have a sense of urgency.
Without that urgency, you may be able to respond but you won't truly be responsive.
As a caveat: Not every organization can or should move that quickly. But we're speaking to those organization whose marketing director is looking for quick hits by news jacking without providing the resources or the ability to move as quickly as you have to secure coverage.