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Reputational crisis management is for every day, not just in a crisis

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April 4, 2022

People will be more likely to listen to you during a reputational crisis if you’ve already established a dialogue with them on social media.

In a fast-moving situation, social media can be the best way to keep up with events and get your message out to customers and stakeholders in real time.

But for that dialogue to work, you need to be sure people will be ready to listen to what you are saying.

This is particularly important in a reputational event when, unlike in other types of crisis such as a fire or disaster, you’re perceived not as the victim but the cause of the problem, meaning you’re likely to be on the back foot before you start.

People tend to be more receptive to your message and willing to accept apologies and promises to put things right if they feel like they already know you and have some trust in you.

If you just appear out of nowhere when there’s a crisis, there is a danger they will react negatively and dismiss what you say as corporate spin.

If you just appear out of nowhere when there’s a crisis, there is a danger they will react negatively and dismiss what you say as corporate spin.”

Richard Sheldon & Kevin Velan | WTW

Yet this ongoing dialogue is an element of crisis management and preparedness that many organisations may be missing. In our recent Reputation Risk Readiness Survey, almost half (49%) of senior executives said they communicate with customers and stakeholders on social media once a quarter or less frequently.

Only 32% of senior executives named crisis communications as among their top five ways to use social media.

Only 32% of senior executives named crisis communications as among their top five ways to use social media.

These results suggest that some business leaders underestimate the importance of social media, not only in responding to a crisis but, crucially, in earning the attention and respect of customers and stakeholders day to day.

We’ve seen high profile examples of CEOs and senior executives who failed to get traction, or added fuel to the fire of a crisis, because they were unknown on social media and unused to communicating on its platforms.

Here are some ways to get those conversations right.

Create a dialogue not a monologue

Social media is more than just a great tool for marketing and managing customer enquiries. If you use it well, it should be a medium for listening and engaging with customers.

To win people’s trust it’s important to communicate regularly, connect with what’s on people’s minds and respond to their feedback.

To win people’s trust it’s important to communicate regularly, connect with what’s on people’s minds and respond to their feedback.”

Richard Sheldon & Kevin Velan | WTW

Although it can be challenging to get the words right, having an open dialogue can build up your store of credit for when you need it most.

Choose the channels your audiences use

The most popular channel among senior executives in our Reputation Risk Readiness Survey was LinkedIn. That’s great if your main audience is working professionals.

However, with many people looking to other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter for their daily feed of social activity and news, you need to have a presence on those platforms too.

Fill the information gaps

Use your social media presence to correct misconceptions, inform and educate about what you’re doing.

Back this up with evidence and data. This can help avoid potential information vacuums that could otherwise be filled by harmful rumours.

Monitor social media to spot hot issues

Scanning social media can help you understand what’s being said about your organisation, not just by fans but also by detractors.

Scanning social media can help you understand what’s being said about your organisation, not just by fans but also by detractors.”

Richard Sheldon & Kevin Velan | WTW

This can help you can shape the conversation and prevent issues escalating into a crisis. It can also help to proactively identify hot issues for your industry and benchmark how your organization is perceived against its peers.

All of this can be invaluable in shaping your pre-crisis conversations and informing your communications during a crisis.

WTW has partnered with Polecat, which uses algorithms powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse and synthesise data from all online and social media channels in real time. From this, the platform creates dashboards and risk alerts, which link directly to the relevant media and can help you get ahead of events and prevent potential reputational issues escalating into a crisis.

To find out more about our reputational crisis solution, please get in touch.

Disclosure

WTW offers insurance-related services through its appropriately licensed and authorised companies in each country in which WTW operates. For further authorisation and regulatory details about our WTW legal entities, operating in your country, please refer to our WTW website. It is a regulatory requirement for us to consider our local licensing requirements.

Contacts

Richard Sheldon
WTW

Kevin Velan
Director, National Product Recall Team

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