Sunday, August 17, 2014

Crisis Communications 101: When to respond to an incident

One of the biggest challenge facing crisis communications practitioners is making the decision of whether to respond to an online crisis or not. If the incident is not set to go viral, a response may be the tipping point that makes it go viral. On the other hand, if the incident is set to go viral and the company does not respond and get ahead of the story, the crisis may take on a life of its own and the company can then only do damage control.

One technique SG Social Media Guru effectively uses for our clients is the monitoring of online influencers. For any story to go viral, the story must achieve critical mass. And critical mass can only be achieved when sufficient websites pick-up the story. In Singapore (and any country for that matter), there will always be influencers. Depending on the company we consult with, the list will vary. However main influencers in Singapore include Channel News Asia, STOMP, Hardware Zone, The Real Singapore and The Online Citizen.

In our work with our clients, whenever a negative online mention is picked-up, the team at SG Social Media Guru would start monitoring the influencers' Facebook pages as well as their websites to determine the magnitude, trajectory and the contagion effect of the comment. Magnitude is used to tell us how concerned people are over the incident and the proxy we use is the number of likes, shares and comments. Trajectory on the other hand is used to measure the direction of the anger. Measured at hourly intervals, the rate of increase in the number of likes, shares and coments (and the tone of the comments) are used to determine whether the concern will spark anger. The third and final factor we monitor is the contagion effect and this relates to whether other influencers pick-up and build on the story. If the story stays localized on a particular page and does not "spread", the probability of it going viral is reduced.

Thus while it is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy which story will go viral, SG Social Media Guru believes that crisis communications practitioner can use the factors of magnitude, trajectory and contagion to make an informed decision on whether to respond to a crisis or not.

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