Social media communication is a rarely implemented risk management tool, but it should get more play. Michael Toebe makes the case for why engaging, authentic use of social media is a real asset for corporate leaders and organizations.
Increased development of social media communication can result in greater effectiveness of risk management, both internal to the organization and external.
This strategy and process largely remains an organizational blind spot and an underdeveloped, uncommon decision, implementation and safeguard.
Social media, when used properly – as strategy and process improvement – can consistently, reliably prove to be an added layer of protection for internal relations, external reputation and legal well-being.
Executives and organizations, which too often have an overly conservative mindset, operate in unfounded fear when it comes to social media and fail to communicate beyond the most limited, one-sided, unproductive, memo-type communication or corporate speak. Their fears can prove significantly misguided, not to mention ineffective risk management, dangerous and costly to mitigation efforts, problem-solving and reputation.
The low-level communication and weakness of engagement and transparency that ensues further erodes trust; increases frustration, fear and anger; and allows a narrative to be hijacked by employees, media, social media and even attorneys outside the organization or government.
Why engage social media as risk management within a crisis? It can be an immediate, available value and effective remedy for the organization.
When conducted with high-level competence, this approach can defuse negative emotions driven by frustration and false assumptions through professionalism, ethics, responsibility, respect, empathy and compassion while informing the audience and preventing further negative momentum and escalation of the crisis. This will lead to a slowing of or reduced costs.
Leveraging social media as a risk management tool will also better manage the “fires” and prove to be more protective communication as a crisis emerges – the point at which the organization is at greatest risk of reputational harm. It mitigates well.
Organizational social media communicators most commonly post and run – as in, they fail to converse. Answers to questions or concerns are not offered. This is not an effective use of social media. It’s leaving tremendous value on the table. Maybe this was once ignorance, but continuing to proceed in the status quo now is reckless, an act of willful negligence.
Social media conversations (not to be confused with the post-and-run amateur efforts) can build, restore and help rebuild trust; strengthen credibility or mitigate damage to it; inform; educate; ease concerns, fears, anger and rage; and problem solve.
Yet how many organizations and leaders actually capitalize on this opportunity and value, and how many realize the responsibility to communicate more often, more thoroughly and more honestly and skillfully, with increased transparency?
Skilled and engaging use of social media communications, if not conducted by a CEO, COO, CFO or CCO (depending on the issues and crises), should be done by a highly informed, wise, intelligent professional with advanced stress management, the highest-quality character, poise, humility, judgment, emotional intelligence and conversational skills (including active listening), as well as the authority to communicate.
Social media is a more informal and effective way to communicate on a regular basis with employees. Communicate with a conversational, empathetic and warm approach, as if you were face to face with someone vitally important to the relationship and mission, a person you care about, need to build trust with and want to reassure.
The same is true when communicating through difficulty or crisis, whether internally or externally. Speak conversationally, with humanity, poise, humility, honesty, transparency and sincerity instead of in a robotic, cold, matter-of-fact tone to what feels like (or is) a faceless audience.
Social media can be an asset when we understand more fully its use to wisely communicate, reveal facts, dispel rumors, exhibit trustworthy behavior, improve credibility and protect against negative media reporting and commentary that can incite additional scandalous coverage and the accompanying contagion of the mob mentality online.
Stakeholders are angered by substandard or weak mitigation and have called for and occasionally succeeded in having executives removed from their positions for not being better communicators, truthful advocates and protectors of organizational reputation.
More advanced and competent social media communications is one significant, strategic problem-solving answer.