Chris Barger of General Motors gives 5 important lessons to consider when handling crisis management through social media.

By: Samantha Scott
Lesson #1 – You can’t over Communicate
  • For general engagement and “normal” business, it’s better to strategize and choose right channels for your goal.
  • In a crisis, answering as many questions as possible and letting people know you’re listening is vital – both because those affected expect it, and because it introduces your perspective into the conversation – so a broad, all-platforms approach is most effective.
GM reached out to influencers by sending out the complete social media/communications plan to the likes of Chris Brogan, etc. telling them it was coming out the next day and telling them to watch. ALL of them wrote about it because it was a great case study, happening live.
 Lesson #2 – Let others tell your story
  • Others will be interested in how you handle your crisis from a social media perspective. So tell them, and let them tell others.
  • We didn’t contact anyone in hopes that they would turn into an advocate. We just wanted them to tell the story – and knew that the story would drive people to us.
  • Perceived loss of control is terrifying, but especially during a crisis. Do it anyway. You never really had control anyway.
 Lesson #3 – Measure, and report
  • Keep track of all the positive comments, conversations, etc.
  • Share them with your boss/client.
 Lesson #4 – Follow Up Matters
  • Community will expect continued engagement.
  • Reputational repair begins with demonstrating change, and the sense that you value the relationships forged during the crisis.
  • Absent significant follow up, community could see your reputational efforts as PR/marketing.
 Lesson #5 – Reputate
  • Ray Jordan, Johnson & Johnson – “reputate” as verb rather than “reputation” as noun.
  • “Get caught doing the right thing.”
  • Google search your company name with “wish” in front. See what consumers wish you had or did.
  • Apply principles of community. Actually listen & respond.
 There is someone in every digital community who has the “Oprah effect” for their group. Find them, talk to them, listen to them. If they get on your side, then everyone else in the influential circle will be too.
 When you’re recovering from a crisis and trying to rebuild a reputation you’re trying to win people over one at a time. It’s one at a time that matters.
Lessons Learned: Final Thoughts
  • Open, candid engagement can win admiration, mitigate negativity.
  • Need to be engaged prior to crisis to have earned credibility.
  • Engagement during crisis only goes so far; you have to back it up after the crisis with sincerity and action.
  • Social engagement CAN sell your product, even when your product is something as big as a car.
  • Success is only half in executing your program; the other half is TELLING people about what you’re doing (social, traditional, bloggers, etc.) If you have a good campaign or are doing something good, but no one knows, what good is it?
  • There is no “over.”
  • It’s not a campaign. It’s a commitment. You are promising to be there.

*Editor’s Note: Learn more about crisis management and thriving in the Auto industry from Ford Motor Company at Annual Conference in August. Scholarships available through the SWFL Chapter; applications due Friday, March 26, 2010.