Saturday, December 31, 2011

1-Day Crisis Training Workshop - Singapore

I am pleased to announce the introduction of our 1-Day Crisis Training Workshop (in-house) for companies in Singapore.  This is a modified version of our current 2-day programme in response to client feedback on the need to cater to senior managements' time constraints. 


Who Should Attend


This course is designed for Managers who are responsible for the reputation and brand of their company.


What I Will Learn


At the end of the 1-day workshop, participants will:
  • understand social media's impact on crisis communications
  • understand the nature of a crisis
  • identifying Stakeholder issues/ concerns
  • learn how to develop Themes and Messages
  • use frameworks to manage a crisis – Attribution Theory
  • use framework to manage negative blog postings or online Mentions – SCAER
  • understand the Singapore media environment and the Media's 'agendas'
  • learn how to deliver your message in a media interview
  • learn how to handle “sensitive” questions during a media interview


How I Will Learn


During the workshop, participants will be trained using:
  • Multi-media Presentation
  • Group discussions
  • Discussions
  • Practicals (supported by video recording and play-back for debriefing and coaching where necessary)

Trainer's Profile

CW has extensive experience in the planning and execution of corporate/ crisis communications for the Singapore Armed Forces. In the span of his military career, CW has successfully led communication teams in major incidences and events, at both the national level and international levels, to protect the reputation of the Singapore Armed Forces and the Republic of Singapore.

Besides being trained and certified by the Institute of Public Relations Singapore (IPRS) in Public Relations and Mass Communications, CW graduated top of his class in the United States Army's Psychological Operations Course. An Associate Member of the IPRS, CW contributes to the Institute's newsletter on topics related to crisis communications.

As part of the US-based International Consortium for Organisational Resilience (ICOR) efforts to establish a base in Asia, CW is ICOR's only accredited trainer for the region. To stay current and professionally updated on developments in crisis communications, CW spends 20% of his time researching and writing on crisis communications for leading HR magazines, professional newsletters and his blog titled Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media.

As the former Head of the Singapore Armed Force's Information Support Branch, CW was responsible for the training of selected military officers in crisis communications during military operations. During his tour of duty, CW has successfully trained in excess of 1,000 personnel.

Qualifications
- Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, University of San Francisco
- Certificate in Public Relations and Mass Communications, Institute of Public Relations, Singapore (IPRS)
- Accredited Crisis Communications Planning Trainer, The International Consortium for Organisational Resilience
- Distinguished Honor Graduate, US Psychological Operations Qualification Course
- Certified Arbinger Facilitator for Leadership and Self-Deception, Arbinger SEA
- Accredited Human Resource Professional, Singapore Human Resource Institute
Experience
- Various appointments in the Singapore Armed Force's Army Information Centre including Head of the Information Support Branch
- Head Media Team, Inaugural Youth Olympic Games 2010 Opening Ceremony
- Deputy Head Information Team for SAF Humanitarian Assistance Support Group during the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004
Others
- Published writer with works on Crisis Communications featured in Human Resource Magazine, Professional Newsletters and blog (www.cwfong.blogspot.com)


For enquiries, contact us at justin@cwfongandassociates.com.

Monday, December 26, 2011

SMRT Sets-Up Twitter Account

It was interesting for me to learn that SMRT only just realized the importance of using Social Media to not only communicate with its stakeholders, but also as an effective platform to communicate crisis information. I expected this of government institutions where the need to control information outweighed the need to keep stakeholders informed. But, frankly, not from a “private” institution that profit-driven.

As a crisis communicator, I acknowledge that SMRT has taken a step in the right direction, but having a Twitter account is not being social media savvy. Like SMRT, many corporations establish impromptu social media presence when a crisis strikes. They then hope that this new social media will be the cure-all only to be disappointed.

What corporations fail to realize is that Social Media true value is the corporations' “relationship” with the stakeholders. Thus, similar to real life relationships, it takes time and effort to build.  And, unless a corporation has spent time to build a social media relationship with its stakeholders, any impromptu social media presence will only be seen as another form of propaganda and will be ineffective in a crisis.

The key lesson here for crisis communicators is this. Social Media's impact on the information environment is undeniable. Corporations must therefore start building their social media relationship with their stakeholders before a crisis.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SMRT Breakdown: Clamour grows for SMRT CEO to step down

There have been increasing calls for SMRT's CEO Ms Saw Phaik Hwa to resign following another MRT service disruption on Saturday 17 Dec 2011. This followed Ms Saw's response to a reporter's question during the press conference to address the 15 Dec 2011 breakdown which have been dubbed the “worst in 24 years.” When asked if she would reign to take responsibility, Ms Saw responded by saying that "it is something I would seriously consider if there is a necessity to do so, but I think I will reserve comments at this moment."

In the era of social media, I believe that such calls for accountability are not only inevitable, but will be a major issue in crisis management situations.  This is because social media has the ability to rally people.  In a crisis, stakeholders instinctively seek to attribute responsibility (see my earlier blog posting) and once an individual (or organization) is seen as responsible (rightly or wrongly), stakeholders expect contrition.

In this context, SMRT's CEO only accepted responsibility and followed this with a pledge to do better. Hence, in my opinion, SMRT failed in their understanding of stakeholders need for an act of contrition. If SMRT had understood this, they would have stated the act of contrition up-front in their initial statement. Such an up-front statement would have given SMRT the information initiative and given it more credibility.

The question then becomes what sort of contrition. From a crisis communications perspective, experience has shown that for an act of contrition to be sufficient to appease stakeholder anger, the act of contrition must be perceived as “equal” to misery caused. Thus, in Ms Saw's case possible acts of contrition could range from (a) forfeiting her annual bonus; (b) self-imposed “suspension without pay” until the cause of failure has been determined and fixed; or even (c) submitting a letter of resignation to SMRT's Board of Directors for their consideration. While any of these acts will not appease all stakeholders, it will appease many and, in my opinion, “humanize” Ms Saw and gather her some allies.

Thus, in short, the key lesson for crisis communicators here is that accepting responsibility is only one part of the equation. An act of contrition is the other element that needs to be addressed for the crisis communication strategy to be effective.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SMRT Breakdown: Service Disruption North-South Line

At a presentation today, I was asked to comment on how I thought Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) could have better managed the current crisis they are facing over the recent series of service disruptions. The main trigger being the breakdown of the north-south line which affected thousands of commuters.

I essentially shared that in a crisis, stakeholders need to attribute responsibility. And, to assist them in this, stakeholders instinctively consider the three factors of locus of control, predictability and controllability. For a more in-depth explanation, please refer to my earlier blog posting “Framework for Crisis Management”.

In essence, locus of control refers to the perception of whether the crisis was caused by the organization or the situation; stability whether the factors contributing to the crisis was predictable; and controllability whether the organization could have acted to prevent it. Thus, if the crisis was caused by the organization, was something which the organization could reasonably have predicted to occur, and was within the ability of the organization to prevent, then attribution of responsibility would be high.

In the context of the current SMRT crisis, stakeholders currently attribute responsibility to SMRT as they feel that (a) the crisis was caused by the organization's failure to design or maintain the rail system properly; (b) the organization could have predicted the breakdowns as they have been happening recently; and (c) the organization could have controlled for the impact of the breakdown through better preparations.

So what could have SMRT done to better manage this crisis?

First of all, I believe that all crisis communication plans must be based on the truth. In today's perfect information environment, anything less would cause a secondary crisis that will most certainly bury the organization.

Using the Framework, a better response from SMRT's would be to proactively redirect responsibility for the crisis by introducing information that would help stakeholders draw a different attribution of responsibility. In this context, assuming that SMRT did its level best and the series of service disruptions were beyond its control, as a crisis communicator, I would have attempted to minimize responsibility by introducing information that would lead stakeholders to believe that the locus of control was external. For example, during the CEO's press conference, apart from citing possible alignment problems as the cause, SMRT would have done better to augment this information with additional facts alluding to external causes. In this context, information like facts on about strength of SMRT's design, the comprehensive maintenance schedules and perhaps third-party endorsements of the system.

In summary, I felt that SMRT's crisis communications plan failed as it lacked a coherent strategy. While I dare not postulate that crisis communications is a science, I do believe that understanding the “science” behind how stakeholders attribute responsibility, would have helped SMRT weather this crisis better.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bedok Residences Queue: Real Interest or Marketing Gimmick?

Some have begun questioning whether the demand for units at Bedok Residence was genuine or merely a publicity gimmick.  These doubts were raised when it was reported in The Straits Times that some students and foreign workers were paid to wait in line.

In response to these questions, CapitaLand's CEO Wong Heang Fine issued a response via the Straits Times forum page.  Wong's response essentially said that "by 5 pm of the first day, 350 of the 450 units released for sale was sold," which thus supports the view that "the queue comprises genuine prospective buyers."

From the crisis communications perspective, while I assess that CapitaLand correctly identified stakeholders' concerns and managed to address it via direct refutation using facts, I however feel that CapitaLand 's response could have been raised a notch if it had first empathized with the stakeholders.

This is because I strongly believe that every crisis is both a threat and opportunity.  Seeking first to build empathy before delivering your message will build valuable reputational credit and position CapitaLand as the developer of choice.  In short, paid publicity is expensive and companies should seek to integrate its marketing and communications functions to leverage on each other.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Singapore Hawker in Jackpot Dispute with Marina Bay Sands (MBS)

The Straits Times today reported that Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has decided to pay Madam Choo Hong Eng the full sum of S$416,742.11.  The dispute between Madam Choo (a Hawker) and MBS arose when Madma Choo hit the jackpot but was subsequently told by the casino that her machine had malfunctioned.  Instead of the sum of $416,742.11 (which was displayed on the machine), MBS offered Madam Choo a sports car worth S$258,962 and S$50,000 in cash.
In its statement to the media, MBS spokesperson explained that "Marina Bay Sands regrets any confusion over the numbers displayed when Madam Choo Hong Eng won the Lotus Evora slot jackpot in our casino.  After carefully reviewing this matter, Marina Bay Sands will pay the patron the amount that was displayed on the slot machine."   The spokesperson added: "We deeply regret the inconveniences caused."
From a Crisis Communications perspective, I find MBS’ initial response lacking in forethought as the outcome in which MBS paid Madam Choo the full sum was inevitable.  I believe the outcome was inevitable as a quick calculation shows the difference to be a mere $107,780 - a minor sum compared to the amount required to repair the casino’s reputation.  In my opinion, MBS was in a no-win situation as even if the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) ruled in its favour, the negative publicity would have done its damage.
While I agree that the casino needs to protect its shareholders’ interests by ensuring that all jackpot payments are “legitimate”, from the facts of the case as presented in the media, I feel that MBS should have just paid Madam Choo the full sum in the first instance and avoided the negative publicity.  In fact, an astute PR department would have been able to turn the incident in MBS’ favour by showing how MBS valued its patrons.
To me, the key lesson for PR Professionals and Crisis Communicators is that sometimes being “right” is not the most important.  This is because businesses are profit-driven and sometimes the “right” decision is what impacts the bottom-line the least.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Workshop: Managing your Online Reputation in the Era of Social Media

Synopsis: The proliferation of Social Media has impacted the way individuals receive information. Unfortunately many organizations are still relying on out-dated techniques and approaches to manage their reputation. This workshop will (a) explain how Social Media's impact has changed the information environment; and (b) present a framework which organizations can use to manage their online reputation.

Who Should Attend: Individuals who are responsible for the reputation of their organizations.

Date: 16 Jan 2012

Time: 3-5pm

Venue: Institute of Adult Learning

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Announcement: Crisis Communications Consulting Firm

I am now on Facebook!!!

In response to demands for my Crisis Communications Workshops, I have established a boutique consultancy to serve my growing client list.  To stay updated on the latest thoughts and discussions on Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media, as well as Workshops and Training Courses, do join me on Facebook.

Thanks for your continued support.

CW

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Insurers Offer Policies to Cover PR Crisis. Putting a Dollar Value to Reputation.

On  October 17, 2011 Ragan’s PR Daily published an article reporting that insurers are now offering policies to cover PR crisis.  This is an interesting development as it signals that an organisation’s reputation not only has a dollar value, but that it is worth spending money to protect.
I see this as a major step forward for the PR Profession which has been seen as a ‘good to have’.  With this development, PR’s tangible contribution to the organisation’s bottom-line will give it more clout in the Board Room and, hopefully, when instances call for strategies like “compensation” to retain customer loyalty after a crisis, more organisations will consider the merits of such a strategy.  A case in point is Research in Motion’s (RIM) recent decision to offer free applications to subscribers in the wake of last week's globe-spanning BlackBerry outages. 
To my fellow PR Professionals, the proverbial door is now open.  It is now up to us to show the C-Suites what PR can do and it is my hope that we can “up” our game such that every organization will eventually have a Chief Reputation Officer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: Not an Internet Election? Who are you kidding?

I read with great interest the recent findings of a joint survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) that suggests that Singapore's recent General Election was not an "Internet election".


According to the survey, “media consumption remained centred on traditional media such as television, newspapers and radio, with only about 30 per cent of respondents also looking at new media sites for election news during the GE period” and “only about one in three said they got information through social websites, but their media diet included mainstream sources too.”


A closer look at the numbers surveyed would reveal that only 2,000 people were polled. With such a small sample size, I do not find the survey findings reliable. This skepticism is based on an extract from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) 2011 survey on Internet and Mobile Phone Penetration Rates, published in The Straits Times on 9 July 2011. In that extract, it was reported that Mobile Phone (2G and 3G) penetration rate by population of 146.1%, Residential Wired Broadband penetration rate by households of 102.7% and Wireless Broadband penetration rate by population of 138.3%. With sure penetration into the lifestyles of Singaporeans, I find it counter-intuitive to say that the Internet did not play a major part in the election.


For example, as was highlighted by Mr Alex Au, who owns the "Yawning Bread" blog, the Internet allowed the raising of less well-known sentiments and, based on ground-swell, resulted in the mainstream media taking up the issues. Additionally, those 30% that obtained information from Social Media are likely to have shared their “discoveries” with family, friends and colleagues. Thus, the information from Social Media would have likely reached more people than the survey concluded.


I can only conclude from the survey numbers that, contrary to what the IPS and NTU wants us to think, this was indeed an Internet Election.


(If you can spare the time, I would appreciate if you can complete the following survey which I am conducting to determine the credibility level of wikipedia to new media users. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KN2YVJT)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Measurement of Effectiveness

I was speaking with a friend of mine (the editor of a company website) and he was sharing with me his current challenge of maintaining his team as his company is looking to cut head-count as the number of visitors to the company website has stagnated. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my friend's challenge is not unique. Companies are profit driven and cost-center adverse, and a business unit's Measure of Effectiveness (MOE) is determined by its assistance to the top-line or contribution to the bottom-line.

My response to my friend was as follows:

A company's website is like a magazine. Thus, depending on the size of the magazine's targeted demographics, the maximum possible number of visitors is “finite.” Similar to the print edition of Singapore bridal magazine, the maximum possible circulation in a given year is capped at the annual number of marriages. While I agree that there maybe some overlap with those getting married the following year, by and large the numbers will not vary much as someone who is already married or not about to get married is unlikely to purchase a bridal magazine.

I then asked my friend to consider if the visitor count had reached what I term “maximum saturation.” If it did and, he wanted to grow the number of visitors, he then had no alternative but to enlarge the targeted demographics. If this enlargement was not possible, my suggestion to him then was to be up-front with Management on their expectations for the company website. In the unfortunate event that Management was still unreasonable and determined that they wanted an increase in visitor numbers, my suggestion to him was to then add the root cause of MOE. In this instance, he then needed to move the company's focus away from visitor numbers as a MOE to others such as conversion rates or even “engagement” numbers.

My point is this, Perhaps in the past, when the Internet was nascent, visitor numbers was the appropriate MOE. Unfortunately, in the era of Social Media, where effective online marketing is now about “engaging” the customer, visitor numbers (aside from being capped by demographics) are no longer useful in determining effectiveness. In the era of Social Media, companies need to select and monitor more useful MOE such as conversion rates, engagement percentages and even referral rates.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Philippines Officials Photoshop Themselves into Typhoon Cleanup Photo

On 30 Sep 2011, officials from the Philippines Department of Public Works and Highways were embarrassed when a blogger discovered that they had Photoshopped three officials into a clean-up photo of Typhoon Nesat.

The blogger had apparently noticed that the picture "didn't appear quite right" and upon careful scrutiny realized that the three officials' (Undersecretary Romeo Momo, Director Rey Tagudando and District Engineer Mikunug Macud) images has been superimposed onto a scene to make it appear that they were assessing the damage of the typhoon.

More proof that we operate in a perfect information environment and that, as communicators, we need to be 100% truthful.

Please help: Petition for a UN Resolution for World Down Syndrome Day to become an Official Observance Day

A United Nations Resolution for World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) to become an official Observance day will be voted on in October 2011. Down Syndrome International is supporting this initiative which will make such a difference for people with Down syndrome, and we ask you to help us by signing our petition which will be presented to the UN 3rd Committee on 17 October 2011.

Here is the link to the petition http://www.ds-int.org/news/wdsd-petition.

Your support is much needed and very much appreciated!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

London Weight Management Controversial Slimming Ad Sparks Debate

London Weight Management (LWM) responded to criticism of their latest advertisement as being demeaning and discriminatory of overweight women. The controversy started when TV host Anita Kapoor penned an open letter to the company on her blog on 23 Sep 2011 which was eventually picked-up by Social Media and then the Main Stream Media.

While I cannot be certain that LWM's response is not intended to continue the debate so as to keep it in the public eye (i.e. some PR professionals hold the view that all publicity is good), if it is not, then the response is ineffective in 2 key aspects:

Lack of Empathy. The response as printed by Yahoo! News showed a complete lack of empathy with stakeholders' concerns. In fact, LWM appeared to completely ignore it and simply stated that they complied with local regulations and that the advertisement was approved by the MDA (I am quite certain MDA will respond to this as MDA does not regulate ads tastefulness). This approach is not ideal as by not demonstrating an understanding of their concerns, stakeholders will then not be “open” to listening to your explanation.

Did not “Elevate” the Issue. In defending its approach to the advertisement, LWM's Marketing and Communications Manager, Ms Hazel Tang, stressed that the storyline is based on the real life experience of one of its clients. While this explanation is “strong”, I feel that LWM could have “elevated” the issue to one of using “real life examples” to sell its product and services instead of simply stating that “we complied with all local regulations” and that "it is based on a client's personal experience."  Elevating the issue will then prevent frivolous counter-arguments by stakeholders and afford LWM a stronger position to defend itself.

In short, in order to manage negative stakeholder comments, it is imperative that the affected organization (a) demonstrate empathy and understanding of stakeholder concerns/ issues; and (b) “elevate” the argument to a universally accepted concept or ideal before addressing it.

My assessment is that this response by LWM is unlikely to end the controversy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Last Minute Cancellation of Night Safari Halloween Horrors Event by WRS' CEO Isabella Loh

Much has been said about the sudden cancellation of the Halloween Horrors event and the possible personal agendas that may be behind it. As a Public Relations (PR) Professional, our job is to stay above the fray and to help our client communicate the “correct” message. In this instance, using the negative fall-out as a gauge, it is safe to assume that Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) did not quite communicate their message as well as they could have.

So what can PR Professionals learn from this incident? To me there are 2 key lessons:

Internal Stakeholders and Communication Policies. One factor that aggravated the crisis for WRS is the appearance of a “divide” between the management and staff. Media reports included “leaked” information and “anonymous” sources that contradicted the official statements of the CEO. While I am the last person to support a cover-up, I however firmly believe that any organization facing a crisis must portray a united front. Without dwelling into the possible group dynamics in this incident, WRS could have (a) communicated the intent and rationale for the cancellation to all internal stakeholders before going public; (b) put in place a Communications Policy that clearly stated who is authorized to speak with the media (both main stream and social) and, more importantly, what is to be said. This internal alignment would have, in my opinion, limited the perception of a management-staff divide.

Appropriate Use of Social Media. While I acknowledge that the speed of Social Media is a game changer in crisis communications, Social Media is nonetheless still a tool. In other words, organizations should be aware of its impact, but should not allow it to dictate what must be done. To illustrate, it was observed that Isabella issued an apology to the Singapore Polytechnic (SP) interns via Facebook as opposed to face-to-face. This, in my opinion, lacks the sincerity of an apology and comes across as pandering to the masses. A more effective approach, would have been for Isabella to apologize to the SP interns in person, and thereafter issue a Facebook posting publicizing it. In fact, a face-to-face apology may illicit some  understanding from the interns would could be included in the Facebook posting.  Social Media is after all only a tool for crisis communication and not the communication.

In short, this incident has highlighted the increasing importance of employee brand ambassadors in the era of social media. To strengthen this aspect, organizations must have in place a good internal communications framework and the supporting communications policy.  This incident has additionally highlighted the dangers of PR Professionals forgetting that Social Media is a tool for crisis communications and, while it is an important consideration, it should not be the communication.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

PR Crisis for California Fitness Over Cancellation of Membership Over Failure to Pay $8 Admin Fee

Today, The Singapore Straits Times and Social Media scene has been abuzz over California Fitness' cancellation of several members' lifetime membership due to their failure to pay a $8 annual administration fee.  Media reports have highlighted that an affected member, who had brought the fitness chain to The Small Claims Tribunal, had been awarded a $1,500 refund from the original membership fee of $4,000.  California Fitness has a major PR crisis on its hands and, in my opinion, if not managed well will signal the start of its demise as a going concern.


This is incident reminds me of a similar one I blogged about on 2nd September 2011, People's Association (PA) Replies to Forum Letter on Appointment of Grassroots Advisor, and is another classic example of how “good communications cannot help bad policies.”  This is because crisis communications is about presenting the truth to affected stakeholders and no amount of sugar coating or reframing can change the fact that a policy is flawed.  To put it simply, a rose by any other name still has thorns.

So what should California Fitness do?

In this instance, as has been demonstrated by the finding of the Small Claims Tribunal in favor of the member, California Fitness is legally at an indefensible position.  Hence, California Fitness' only approach is to change its policy and to go on the PR offensive to shore up its brand reputation.  To do this, California Fitness must (a) acknowledge the error of its past policy; (b) empathize with affected customers over the distress they have felt; (c) apologize and offer some act of contrition.  The Theme which California Fitness' crisis communication plan should adopt is one of "Remorse".

While this approach may be difficult for management to swallow, it is in my opinion the only possible solution to prevent decline in sales over the very negative publicity.  After all, as I have said in the beginning of this post, "good communications cannot help bad policies".

Friday, September 16, 2011

Crisis Scenario Discussion: What would you do if your teacher is accused of molesting one of the children

Scenario

You receive a complaint from a mother that her son had been sexually abused while at the pre-school you manage.  From your industry sources, you know that the mother had made a similar false claim in the past.  The police are investigating the complaint.  What would you do?

==========

My first step is to do a Stakeholder Analysis to identify the major Stakeholders and their Issues/ Concerns.  It is only after I have done this, do I then develop the appropriate message (including actions) to address them.

In this scenario, there are two major stakeholders - the parents of the other children who would be concerned about the safety of their child, and the teachers who would be concerned that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. Thus, in my opinion, the appropriate response would be to issue a statement (a) acknowledging that a complaint has been received; (b) that the school places a high premium on the safety of the children under its charge; (c) that the school is helping authorities investigate the allegations; and (d) additional measures would be instituted to ensure the continued safety of the children until investigations are completed.

Essentially, I would go public with the allegation as we now operate in a "perfect information environment" and it is only a matter of time before the public finds out. Being proactive then enables the school to frame the issue and gain the information initiative.

==========

Do you agree or disagree with my proposed response?  Do share your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

OCBC Succeeds in Managing Customers Unhappiness over Service Disruption

OCBC suffered a “technical glitch” yesterday (13 Sep 2011) which resulted in an island-wide disruption to its banking services. For a period of approximately 4 hours, OCBC customers could not access their accounts via the ATM, Internet Banking or Credit Card Services.

Apart from the “physical” immediate action undertaken by OCBC to mitigate customer inconveniences, OCBC also responded well in the “information” dimension to protect its reputation. OCBC's crisis communication plan was open, timely and included the use of Social Media platforms like Twitter. This Social Media integration with Main Stream Media proved effective in keeping customers updated. The piece de resistance in OCBC's crisis communication was the broadcast of a SMS apology by its CEO (Mr David Conner) which, judging from Social Media monitoring sites, was well received by customers.

So what are the key lessons for Crisis Communicators from this incident.

Firstly, as mentioned in my research, an effective crisis communication plan must comprise the 5 Essential Elements of being open, timely, 100% truthful, broadly communicated and internet present. A quick look at what transpired yesterday would reveal that OCBC's plan included all of these elements: (a) OCBC's confirmation of the technical glitch was noted to have been posted on Twitter within an hour of the incident; (b) OCBC was “truthful” over the cause (at least as far as we can tell for now); and (c) OCBC used a mix of Social Media as well as Main Stream Media channels to communicate with stakeholders.

Secondly, attribution theory of crisis communications states that stakeholders will attribute responsibility based on OCBC's perceived role in the crisis. In this instance, in view of the prompt restoration of services and OCBC's perceived attempts to minimise customer inconveniences, stakeholders can tolerate one off “technical glitches” and “forgive” OCBC. Unfortunately, this is a one-time pass and a second incident would not be viewed in the same light.   Hence, in my opinion, while it was a brilliant PR move for the CEO to SMS an apology to affected customers, I thought OCBC should have gone one step further. This is because technology is unpredictable and even with numerous redundancies in place, I would predict that it is impossible to prevent a second occurrence. Hence, a stronger approach would have been to “compensate” customers for their inconvenience. Much like Domino Pizza's strategy where a failure to deliver a performance standard is reframed into one in which the customer accepts willingly.  Such a move by OCBC, would have put OCBC in a strong position should a second incident occur.  In fact, I would even venture to say that such a move would encourage existing customers to switch their banking to OCBC.

All said and done, I think overall the PR Team at OCBC did a fantastic job!  Kudos!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Role of Employees in Crisis Communication

In Aug 2011, the Altimeter Group published an interesting report on the impact of social media. In its report, based on studies on 50 social media crisis, Altimeter Group concluded that 76% of these crisis could have been avoided if the companies involved had put in place the necessary organisation structures, staff processes and social media policies.

Based on their research, Altimeter Group identified that “advanced” companies that use social media had correctly identified the crucial role their rank and file employees play in the social media environment. These companies then not only allowed employee usage, but encouraged employees to use social media professionally. This is something I had blogged about on 2 Sep 2010 in my posting on “SIA Crew Warned over Facebook Use” where I mooted the idea of creating “ambassadors.

As a system, at the employee level, “advanced” companies were observed to have established (a) a robust and comprehensive social media policies that guide employees on what they can or cannot disclose; and (b) introduced corporate social media training programmes that taught employees on the correct use of social media.

Judging from the successes reported by these “advanced” companies, I think it is time that Singapore companies embrace the notion of developing their own social media “ambassadors”.

CW

P.S. It feels good when research substantiates your thinking.  :-)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) Suspends Facebook Comments Function Over 'Cyber-Harassment'

The Straits Times today reported that Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) had to temporarily disable its Facebook comments page after animal rights activists flooded it with messages calling for the release of the resort's 25 dolphins.

RWS' response was to go on the offensive by labelling the activist's actions as cyber-harassment and attributed responsibility to Animal Concerns Research and Education Society's (ACRES). To support their position, RWS provided screen-shots of the “abusive” posting and cited ACRES' own Facebook wall posting on 2 Sep 2011 where it “urged its followers to repeatedly post messages relating to the Marine Life Park on the Resorts World Sentosa Facebook page over the weekend from 9am Saturday to 9pm Sunday”.

So what can Crisis Communicators learn from this?

Firstly, RWS' response. It is my opinion that RWS made the correct decision to suspend the comment function on its Facebook page. Similar to an incident in which activists stand in your physical establishment and deny you the freedom to conduct your business, it is necessary for an organisation to use all proportionate means to deal with the “attack” and to allow it to restore normal business activities.

Secondly, and this is where I disagree with RWS, is its approach to go on the offensive against ACRES. I disagree with this approach as ACRES is after all an activists group and being labelled negatively is nothing new to them – in fact, it is expected. Additionally, crediting them with the “attack” adds to its “street credibility” and it is likely to embolden them further.

When dealing with activists, it must be noted that such groups are made up of the vocal elements (those that do the actions), a larger base of silent supporters (those that provide the financial support) and a still larger base of people that tolerate them (those that say do what you want just don't inconvenience me). Thus, it is my opinion, that a better approach for RWS would have been to seek to undermine ACRES credibility and support by indirectly by turning its silent supporters against them and the larger population's tolerance of them. To this end, RWS should have adopted a Theme of “benevolence” and hence (a) acknowledge that ACRES held a different view from RWS and the majority of Singaporeans; (b) RWS is willing to work with ACRES to address their concerns; (c) a denial of service attack on RWS' Facebook wall was not constructive as it inconvenienced other customers.

Activism is not common in Singapore. Unfortunately, with the increasing reach of Social Media, Singapore companies need to understand activism, its structure, and how to deal with it. This attack on RWS will certainly not be the last.

(If you find this blog posting useful/ interesting, please click the Google +1 button to show your support.  Thanks.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Social Media Abuse: Mexicans Face 30-Year Prison Term for Using Twitter to Spread Fear

The Associated Press today carried a report that 2 Mexicans are facing a 30-year prison term for allegedly using Twitter to spread chaos. In the report, the man and the woman (Gilberto Martinez Vera, 48, a private school teacher, and Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, a radio presenter) are accused of spreading false reports that gunmen were attacking schools in the city of Veracrus.



As I explained in my research on Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media, social media has enabled practically anyone with Internet access to reach out to a global audience. Unfortunately, unlike professional journalists who subscribe to a professional code of conduct, these citizen journalists do not. Citizen journalists are therefore free to pursue personal agendas without regards for the consequences.

This is another prime example of the dangers of allowing the unconstrained use of social media. While I am not advocating Government regulation or censorship of social media, I am however advocating that Governments enact laws that will enable them to hold netizens accountable for their actions. Such laws, used judiciously (so as not to infringe on the individual's right to expression) will then enable Governments to stop blatantly irresponsible actions against the common good.

While I firmly support the right of free speech, I also believe that the right comes with the obligation to use it responsibly. And, if an individual fails in his obligations, he or she must be held accountable.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

PA's 2nd Straits Times Forum Response Once Again Misses the Point

In an attempt to correct an earlier botched response to a Straits Times Forum letter questioning the appointment of PAP Advisers to Grassroots Organisations, Ms Ooi Hui Mei (Director Corporate Communications for the People's Association) 2nd response was carried in the 3 Sep 2011 edition of The Straits Times. In her response, Ms Ooi (a) once again failed to acknowledge the concern of the writer but instead trivialised it by saying that the “Government appreciates the public's interest” in this matter; and (b) attempted to explain why the PA needed to be pro-government.

In an earlier blog posting of mine, I shared with readers 2 principles which I believe are essential in handling negative stakeholder feedback. They are ...

Firstly, the stakeholder's unhappiness must be acknowledged as genuine and the response must directly address this. A common mistake made is to provide a general response to the concern raised. Doing so, the organisation not only "trivialises" the stakeholder's concerns, but demonstrates a lack of understanding of the situation. This is likely to instigate the stakeholder to continue his "attacks" on the organisation as he feels that he has not been “heard”.

Secondly, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, the organisation must avoid addressing the concern at the "tactical" level. The stakeholder's concern must be elevated and linked to universal principles like fairness, safety or perhaps corporate social responsibilities. Doing this will avoid a drawn out PR battle as it is very difficult for an unhappy stakeholder to argue against universally accepted principles.

Hence, in order to effectively address negative stakeholder feedback, the PA must do 2 things - (a) acknowledge the stakeholder's concerns; and (b) elevate and link the concern to a "universal principle" before offering a solution.

Based on Ms Ooi's second response, it is my opinion that this is not likely to be the end of this matter.

(If you find this blog posting useful/ interesting, please click the Google +1 button to show your support. Thanks.)

Follow me on Twitter @sg_crisis_guru

Dear Readers,

I resisted the push to have a Twitter account for the longest time as I felt that I did not have much to up-date on a regular basis.  Well, things have changed and I now have a Twitter account.

Hence, if you want to stay updated on the latest thinking on crisis management and, more specifically, crisis communications (in Singapore and around the region), please follow me on Twitter @sg_crisis_guru.

I hope to share my thinking, as well as to hear and learn from you.

Cheers!
CW

Friday, September 2, 2011

People's Association (PA) Replies to Forum Letter on Appointment of Grassroots Advisor

The 31 Aug 2011 People's Association (PA)'s response, to a Straits Times forum letter by Mr Muhammad Yusuf Osman supporting the idea that Advisers to grassroots bodies should be the elected Member of Parliament (MP), is a classic example of the refrain that “good communications cannot help bad policies.”

This is because communications is about presenting the truth to affected stakeholders. No amount of sugar coating or reframing or, in this case, double-speak, can change the fact that the policy is flawed and biased in support of the government. To put it simply, a rose by any other name still has thorns.

So what could the PA have done?

For this particular case, instead of attempting a feeble attempt to explain the issue, my advice as a crisis communicator would be for the PA to first “elevate” Mr Muhammad Yusuf Osman question to one about fairness (which, by the way, is the writer's main concern). And, once having established that, gone on to try to explain why it is more “fair” to the public for the Government to appoint grassroots advisers who support its programmes.

While this approach may not address the root issues of fairness and equity, it would in my opinion (a) show an understanding of the issue raised; (b) demonstrate empathy to the writer; and (c) perhaps make a bad policy sound more palatable.

(To stay up to date on the latest thoughts on crisis communications, 'Like" us on our Facebook page.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

News Release: What is more Important? Timeliness or Accuracy

In a recent discussion with a group of executives, the issue of timely press releases was raised.  Some in the group felt that while we endeavour to be timely to frame the crisis, others felt that it is important to ensure accuracy which usually takes time.  Hence, the group was divided on the relative importance of timeliness versus accuracy.

To guide the discussion, I shared the following perspective.  I told the Group that the answer to their dilemma was in understanding (a) stakeholder behaviour towards news; and (b) the psychological concept of primacy/ recency effects.

Stakeholder Interest in News.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that unless an issue directly impacts them, stakeholder interest is short-lived and dependent on whether there are “newer” more interesting developing news.  As a norm, from my observations, interest in an issue (in both Main Stream and Social Media) usually peaks between 12 to 24 hours and thereafter declines significantly beyond 48 hours.

First Impressions.  Based on psychological studies, stakeholders’ strongest memories of an issue will be either the first or most recent “facts” he or she receives.   In the context of an issue in which the stakeholder has no interest, he is therefore unlikely to be on the look-out for more facts on the issue.  Hence, it is a natural assumption that the organisation’s first response is what he or she will remember making it more crucial.

With these two premises in mind, I then opined that the balance between accuracy and timeliness must be seen along a time continuum.  In the early stages of a crisis, the need for timeliness takes priority over accuracy.  This then gradually changes when we cross the 24 hour mark where accuracy takes priority.  Thus, both groups are correct depending on the time continuum they were referring to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Congratulations ICOR!

ICOR (International Consortium for Organisational Resilience) has been awarded accreditation status for its certificate programmes by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute).  As the Singapore equivalent of SPRING (and the British's Standards Institute), ANSI's accreditation recognises the quality of ICOR's Business Continuity Management (BCM) programmes.  With this accreditation, ICOR is the only training and professional certification body in USA to be granted this special honor.

Organisations and individuals in Singapore seeking professional training in Crisis Communication can now confidently undertake ICOR's CM2050 Crisis Communication Planner Course with the knowledge that the course meets international standards.

As ICOR's Singapore trainer, I congratulate ICOR on this significant milestone.

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Course Description: Crisis Communication Planer (CS IL CSM 2050)

An organization in crisis faces many grave threats. Employees can be in physical danger. Buildings can fall. Customers can be lost. But the most serious threat is and always will be the threat to the organization’s most important asset – its reputation. To protect the organization from reputational threats requires careful, thoughtful, detailed planning and a methodology for inculcating a culture of organizational crisis preparedness. In this two-day seminar, you will learn how to prepare the organization for inevitable threats to reputation, execute the crisis communications plan, then, when the crisis has passed, assess and do what must be done before the next threats occur. Attendees earn a certificate as Crisis Communications Planner.

News Release: Selection as a Guest Contributor for Icon Media Group's Professional Blog

I am happy to announce my selection as a Guest Contributor to Icon Media Group's professional blog.  My selection as a Guest Contributor is a recognition of my thought leadership in the area of crisis communications and my contributions to the industry as a whole.

My first contribution is an article explaining the reason for the current ineffectiveness of Strategic Communications.  Having observed that current approaches to strategic communications uses Social Media as an ancillary communication channel, I explained that the fundamental mode of information dissemination has changed from traditional Main Stream Media to Social Media. Thus, unless organisations re-structure and place Social Media at the epi-center of their communications strategy, any communication strategy will be ineffective at best and damaging at worst.

Icon Media Group is a full service, communications consultancy, delivering Purposeful; Integrated and Uncompromising communication solutions. As experts in Communications Strategy, Icon Media Group empowers enterprises with Total communications capabilities to prepare for and to best manage tomorrow╩╝s communication challenges, from Strategy to Execution.

I look forward to a mutually beneficial working relationship with Icon Media Group in serving the communication needs of businesses.

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For clarifications, visit http://www.cwfongandassociates.com.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strategic Communication and the Era of Social Media: An Alternate Definition


Although much has been written about Strategic Communications (SC), unfortunately there is little agreement amongst its many practitioners. Some practitioners view SC as a concept of facilitating communication to allow an organisation to attain its long-term strategic goal, while other practitioners view SC as a process to co-ordinate an organisation's internal and external communication processes. To me, I believe that SC is all of the above and more. Allow me to explain ...

As I advocated in one of my earlier posting, in the Era of Social Media, organisations now operate in an environment where practically anybody can create and disseminate “news” contents. These “Citizen Journalists” can now galvanise populace support as widely and as effectively as any big budget news organisations. Additionally, the Internet's ability to provide instantaneous news on a 24/7 basis, consolidated and indexed (via intelligent search engines), has made it the primary source of information. The convergence of media technology has therefore fundamentally altered the way individuals receive news and gather information and has created the dimensions of User Generated Contents and Rallying Tools.

Together, these two new dimensions has effectively changed the information environment. Information is now becoming as valuable as prime real estate where top-search engine rankings and positive (or negative) reviews on influential blogs can have tremendous impact an organisation's fortunes. In view of this, I have defined Strategic Communications as a social media centric process of managing an organisation's communications to its stakeholders via aligning (and leveraging where possible) communication channels to deliver a consistent Theme to achieve a strategic end state.

Unfortunately, many organisations today use Social Media as an ancillary communication channel and continue to communicate to their stakeholders via a multitude of out-dated and ineffective channels. To their credit, these organisation have acknowledged the need to have a consistent message and have adopted SC as a process to co-ordinate and align their various communications channels. Regrettably, what these organisations are finding is that, even with SC, they are losing the communication battle as Social Media continues to out-flank and out-manoeuvre them at every turn. This is happening because Social Media is rapidly becoming the de facto news and information platform and without a Social Media centric communication platform, these organisations will never be able to effectively communicate their Themes and Messages.

Thus, organisations seeking to effect SC must first understand and accept the increasing impact of Social Media on the new information environment and place SC at the center of its Corporate Strategy where communication can then be used to deliver either supporting or 1st order effects and add to the organisation's bottom line. Given Social Media's assured dominance of the information environment in the near future, Social Media's central role in future communications is inevitable and organisations need to restructure now to effectively deal with it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crisis Communication: Fatal Police Shooting Sparks London Riots 2011

On 6 August 2011 the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in Tottenham, by London's Metropolitan Police, set the stage for a series of riots which have since spread to other areas like Wood Green, Enfield Town, Ponders End and Brixton.

Since the start of the riots, officials have been proactive in managing the situation by urging calm by committing to an open and transparent investigation into the shooting. Officials have essentially adopted a theme of legitimacy where they are telling stakeholders that they have a system to ensure that justice will be served. Unfortunaetly, as evidenced by the spreading of the riots, the theme of legitimacy does not seem to be working. Additionally, negative news continue to dominate main stream media and social media accounts of the riots, its devastation and its impact on London.

From a crisis communication perspective, there are 2 lessons which crisis communicators can learn from this crisis – value of a Stakeholder Analysis and the need to push positive news.

Stakeholder Analysis. As I have constantly advocated, a proper stakeholder analysis to identify the conditions, attitudes and attributes of the target audience is a necessary first step in developing an effective crisis communication plan. This is because the target audience's response to the selected theme is predicated on the “vulnerabilities” derived from the target audience's conditions, attitudes and attributes. In the case of the London Riots, current and historical mistrust of authority and recent allegations of biased police actions against the target audience make the legitimacy theme inappropriate at best and a furthing rallying point at worse. In my opinion, the authorities could have adopted an alternate theme of “bandwagoning” by getting key communicators from within the target audience to demonstrate restraint and call for others to follow suit.

Push Positive News. An Internet search of “London Riots 2011” returns endless negative postings. Anyone searching the Internet for news on the riots will get the impression that the riot are inevitably much worst than it is by protraying (a) the riots are out of control; and (b) everybody in the affected areas are against the police. What the authorities need to do is to push out positive news of their own. News of acts of heroism by police officers or stories of citizens banding together to stop the riots. Such postive news will go a long way in balancing cyberspace's portrayal of the riots and in my opinion, will go a long way in helping restore law and order.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crisis Communication Plan: Use of Social Media

In a recent presentation on the 5 Essential Elements of Crisis Communication in the Era of Social Media (i.e. (a) open; (b) timely. (c) 100% truthful; (d) Internet present; and (d) broadly communicated), one of the executives asked if broadly communicated was necessary if the crisis was developing only in cyberspace. His perspective was that, as crisis communicators, we should not be unnecessarily enlarging the number of “fronts” on which to fight the battle by involving the main stream media.

My response was this.

In the era of Social Media, there is an increasing overlap between social and main stream media. Often, what starts out in social media, is picked-up by main stream media and reported. A prime example is the Mar 2011 incident involving the picture of a maid carrying the field-pack of a Singapore Armed Forces' Full-Time National Serviceman. In this example, the crisis began when a reader on STOMP (Straits Time Online Mobile Print) found the picture on Facebook and uploaded in onto the website. Within days, the picture went viral and was carried in all major main stream media. This is but one example.

Hence, while I agree with the executive that we should limit the fronts where we fight so as to concentrate our efforts, we need to acknowledge that social media and main stream media are becoming one and the same. With main stream media journalists increasingly tapping on social media for the next “big news”, by confining our response to a negative blog posting or online mention to only social media, we are effectively conceding the information initiative and this makes it harder for us to frame a developing crisis in our favour.

Thus a crisis communication plan must be disseminated as broadly as possible.

(For more information on crisis communication training for your organisation, contact www.cwfongandassociates.com)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Crisis Communication Plan: The 5 Essential Elements

The proliferation of Social Media has changed how effective Crisis Communication is to be done. The presence of low cost Internet access and Internet ready devices have broken the monopolistic hold of professionally run news organisations. In today's information environment, practically anybody can create and disseminate “news” contents. These unregulated “Citizen Journalists” can now galvanise populace support as widely and as effectively as any big budget news organisations. Furthermore, the Internet's ability to provide instantaneous news on a 24/7 basis, consolidated and indexed (via intelligent search engines), has made it the primary source of news. Essentially, the convergence of media technology has fundamentally altered the way individuals receive news and gather information and has created two new dimensions to Crisis Communication – User Generated Contents and Rallying Tools.

Implications for Crisis Communications

As a direct result of these technological advances, the nature of Crisis Communication has fundamentally changed. In the new information environment, Crisis Communication operates in an environment in which information is:

a. Near Instantaneous Media Cycle. As acknowledged by Reuter's Director of News Media Development, Chris Cramer, “every key event going forward will be covered by members of the public and not by traditional journalists.” The omnipresence of “journalists,” coupled with technology that enable professional journalists to report the news as it develops, has compressed the media cycle and crisis response times. This compression was demonstrated in January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 crash landed in the Hudson River. In that incident, emails, tweets, photos and videos of the incident began filtering through cyberspace 15 minutes before the main-stream media even reported it. In fact, the first recorded tweet occurred 4 minutes after the incident.

b. Perfect Information Environment. The ability of Internet search engines to trawl the world wide web for information, and to present it collated and indexed, effectively provides stakeholders with perfect information about an incident. This means that nothing is likely to remain hidden forever and that once the spot-light is turned-on, everything related (both past and present) will be revealed and scrutinised. This “know-all” nature of the Internet environment is demonstrated in our daily news reports where the subject's childhood associations, past comments on websites or blogs can be reported. In the November 2009 Fort Hood Massacre, the New York Times tracked a posting on the website Scribd allegedly published by the shooter supporting suicide bombings by Muslim extremists.

c. Multiple Media Platforms. A 2008 study commissioned by The Associated Press on the News Consumption Behaviour of Young Adults revealed that younger consumers are not only less reliant on newspapers for their news, but that they also consume news across a multitude of platforms and sources. Online videos, blogs, online social networks, mobile devices, RSS, word of mouth, web portals and search engines have become their go to sources. As many of these New Media sources are unregulated, the risk of distortion to the facts is extremely high. Nik Gowing, in his July 2002 article for the Humanitarian Practise Network, describes how facts about an Israeli offensive into the West Bank in the Spring of 2002 to neutralise suicide bombers targeting Israel was distorted by questionable emails, photos, videos and blogs to portray an Israeli massacre of Palestinians. While eventually unsubstantiated, the negative world opinion cost the Israeli Defence Force heavily and forced their early withdrawal denying them the ability to act in self-defence.

In short, in the new information environment, Crisis Communication is beyond the control of any individual or organisation. Crisis Communication Planners must accept that nothing can be hidden forever and that a Crisis Communication Plan must be open, fast, accurate, broadly communicated through multiple platforms and comprising a cyberspace component.

Characteristics of Effective Crisis Communications - The 5 Essential Elements

To meet the challenges of operating in the new information environment of a near instantaneous media cycle, one in which perfect information is available, and one in which stakeholders get their news from multiple platforms, effective Crisis Communication Plans must be (a) open; (b) timely; (c) truthful; (d) broadly communicated; and (e) present in the Internet.

a. Open. As nothing in the new information environment can be hidden indefinitely, Crisis Communication Planners can no longer try to manage an incident by preventing it from being made public. It must be assumed that all news worthy incidences will be reported and that the role of the Crisis Communication Planner is to “frame” the incident so that the company will be seen as positively as possible. Adopting an open reporting approach has two main advantages. Firstly, open reporting will establish the company's credibility with stakeholders with regards to their desire to resolve the crisis. This credibility will in turn position any subsequent actions taken positively. Secondly, being proactive in releasing information about the incident will prevent distortion of the facts. This will allow the company to “frame” the incident in its favour as well as prevent the crisis from spiralling out of control.

b. Timely. Given the speed with which the New Media operates, Crisis Communication Planners can no longer “beat” the media cycle. Fortunately, stakeholders accept that it takes time for a company to gather the facts of an incident and are willing to wait a reasonable time to hear from the company. While there is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes a reasonable time, an initial statement acknowledging the incident within the 1st hour and a follow-up press conference within 4 hours has so far proven to be the norm. The timely acknowledgement of an incident will also enable the company to gain the information initiative. In addition, as there is usually conflicting information during the early stages of a crisis that causes confusion, the timely release of information will fill this vacuum and reduce distortion of facts. Putting a “face” to the company also allows the company to establish itself as the primary source of credible information on the crisis.

c. 100% Truthful. In the perfect information environment, false or deliberately misleading statements will be found out. It is not uncommon for stakeholders to search for past incidences to discredit the company's claims or for other similarly affected parties to come forward. Once a pattern of deceit is established, this will imply a cover-up on the part of the company giving further traction to the crisis. Crisis Communication Planners must therefore only allow complete truths to be disclosed. This is because in a crisis, the credibility of the company's spokesperson is central to an effective Crisis Communication plan. The Crisis Communication planner must therefore protect the spokesperson's credibility. To fulfil this role, the Crisis Communication Planner has to think like a journalists and when facts are doubtful, seek proof from their internal stakeholders before releasing the information.

d. Broadly Communicated. The presence of numerous news platforms has complicated Crisis Communication as Crisis Communication Planners can no longer rely on the traditional press conference to communicate the company's message to all affected stakeholders. Online videos, blogs, online social networks, RSS, web portals and search engines are alternate news platforms that also need to carry the message. As such, the development and release of Social Media compatible information, customised to the different technical requirements of each platform, is integral to a holistic Crisis Communication plan. Given the large number and types of platforms, requiring specialised skills, the Crisis Communication Team alone is unlikely to be able to cope and will need to be augmented with a team from the IT department.

e. Internet Presence. As mentioned earlier, the perfect information environment allows powerful search engines to instantaneously collate and index all related information on the incident for users. Hence all news reports, both positive and negative, will be seen by the stakeholders. To maintain a positive "spin" to the crisis, Crisis Communication Planners must ensure that the number of positive reports exceed the negatives. This is done via the proactive and deliberate publishing of information on the Internet. Additionally, as the Internet “archive” practically everything indefinitely, the company's Crisis Communication plan does not end with the closure of the crisis. The company's side of the story must remain posted so that the company continues to tell its side of the story indefinitely.

Conclusion

Internet technology has fundamentally changed the nature of Crisis Communication. Companies and PR Professionals operating in this new information environment must understand the technological implications and adjust their approach accordingly. Only then, can the PR Professional adequately serve his or her client.

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