Tag Archives: management

Crisis What Crisis?

This is an article that I wrote for the January edition of IT Now which was published this week

 

imageYou already know that social media is changing the way you find information and will fundamentally change the way you interact online.  But with the media focus on errors, mistakes and PR disasters, how do you reassure your executives that if things do go wrong, you have an effective and workable process in place to mitigate the effects if it occurs at your company?

Many companies also don’t have an effective crisis management plan in place.  They have no procedures to deal with an online or crisis catastrophic physical event involving their employees and the results can be devastating. Therefore, companies that are starting to use social media for communication or customer support should consider having a comprehensive structured procedure to cover all possibilities, potential issues and aspects of managing a crisis.

Consider the problems that Toyota had earlier this year with vehicle product recalls and issues with brakes and accelerator pedals.  Toyota initially had no plans in place to deal with communications with customers and remained largely silent until the crisis had escalated to global proportions. The media speculated on what was happening, community forums were reporting stories, complaints, and criticism of the company. Toyota had an estimated 10% wiped off the value of the brand.  When the crisis continued to grow people were kept well informed by blogs and Tweets.  But these messages seemed to have come too late to keep the reputation of the brand.

This type of issue, and others like it, could be minimised by implementing an effective brand monitoring program that watches for change of sentiment about the brand, and looks for spikes in user engagement or dissatisfaction.  This approach could avoid nascent PR problems which might go unnoticed by the brand. Early action by the brand can turn issues into non-issues due to early engagement with customers.

Engagement and proactive conversation which reduces the customer’s pain and keeps them informed is a good approach to minimising the effects of a crisis.  If you keep your customers satisfied by regular communications they will turn to your channel and not turn to the media for information.  When issues arise, companies who keep the media and customers informed will avoid speculation about what is happening.  In December 2008, Ford had an issue with a long running Ford fan site called the Ranger Station. Ford sent the owners of the site a ‘cease and desist’ letter requesting that they dropped the use of the name ‘Ranger’. The news spread like wildfire across many Ford user forums which quickly looked like Ford’s actions were turning into a PR disaster. Scott Monty, Fords social media manager systematically minimised the effects of the PR firestorm within 24 hours using social media channels.  Scott satisfied the customers’ needs to know what was going on in almost real time, keeping the community informed and happy.  This stopped speculation on other 3rd party web sites and drew attention right back to where the news was happening – from the team that was involved – at Ford.

Usual PR diversionary tactics and tricks – delay, deflect, defend weren’t needed at all – and this helped in the crisis management strategy. What worked much better was honesty, candour and total transparency – which is a much better tactic.

Having an effective crisis management plan in place is important and all outbound communicators need to be aware of the new procedures. But adding it to your employee terms and conditions without any proactive approach will not work when a crisis hits.  Your policy amendment needs to be rolled out to each and every member of staff but what’s the best way to go about this?

Here are some considerations for implementing your crisis management plan.

  1. Educate everyone in the company.  Offer half day training sessions tailored to everyone in the business, or offer online e-learning.  Make the training mandatory and phase it in over several weeks to make sure you train everyone in the business from the C suite to the admin team. Everyone needs to be aware of the new policy and how it will affect them.  Make sure your training rollout includes provision for new members of staff joining after the training has completed
  2. Set expectations.  Although everyone throughout the business will not be using social media in their day job, they need to be aware of the impact that it might have on the business and they will need to become brand advocates offline.  With the growth of your online brand presence they might get questions offline, and need to be able to know how to deal with any questions about policy, strategy etc.
  3. Roll the policy.  Make sure everyone signs the amendment to their terms and conditions.  If they are going to use social media, then they need to be trained first – so they can help and guide others who may be new to corporate blogging / social media activities etc.
  4. Put a process in place so that any outbound communications by anyone in the company is done with the knowledge of the line manager and HR. 
  5. Find someone within the organisation to become the social media evangelist.  Often the company doesn’t realise the commitment they have already invested in the company, so to having a great communicator on your side is invaluable.   They will help communicate your strategy to the execs.
  6. Have a centralised list of people who do outbound communications so you know who to direct your communications to inside the office.
  7. If you have the resources, monitor each employee’s use of their chosen business social media channels to be able to proactively respond to any issues that may occur.
  8. Have an effective crisis management plan in place.  Involve the Communications team and the PR team.  Make this plan part of your social media policy.
  9. Make sure you have enough people who can listen to the outbound stream to detect if a crisis develops and act accordingly.
  10. Revisit the plan and make sure it’s refreshed often.  Unlike the employee handbook, social media changes often so you need to be flexible.

Having an effective and workable plan in place will mitigate the issues if a crisis occurs. After all, the difference between a crisis and an emergency is that everyone is drilled in emergency procedures (think fire crews and cabin crew).  With an effective crisis management plan and procedures in place, you can add your social media emergency drill to your standard implementation plan, drill everyone and make everyone aware of what they need to do when – or if the crisis arrives.

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Tips on implementing your Social media policy

When I talk to customers about their social media policy, or lack of I’m often surprised at the desired end goal.  Often the customer wants to have to have a comprehensive set documentation that covers all eventualities and includes aspects of Crisis management that I talked about on Friday.  So far so good.

But all they seem to want to do with this policy is to add it to the employee terms and conditions – or get each employee to sign the policy.  Nothing more. Hmmm.

So what about implementation?  The policy needs to be rolled out to each and every member of staff for due diligence purposes, sure, but what’s the best way to go about this?

Well, here are my top tips for getting your policy implemented

  1. Educate everyone.  Either offer half day training sessions tailored to everyone in the business, or offer online e-learning.  Make the training mandatory and phase it in over several weeks to make sure you train everyone n the business – from the C suite – to the admin team – everyone needs to be aware of the new policy and how it will affect them.  Make sure your training includes new members of staff joining
  2. Set expectations.  Although everyone throughout the business will not be using social media in their day job, they need to be aware of the impact that it might have on the business and they will need to become brand advocates offline.  With the growth of your online brand presence they might get questions offline, and need to be able to know how to deal with any questions about policy, strategy etc.
  3. Roll the policy out in a structured way.  Make sure everyone signs the amendment to their terms and conditions.  if they are going to use social media, then they need to be trained first – so they can help and guide others who may be new to corporate blogging / social media activities etc.
  4. Put a process in place so that any outbound communications by anyone in the company is done with the knowledge of the line manager and HR. 
  5. Make sure all staff have the appropriate legal disclaimers on their outbound sites
  6. Have a centralised list of people who do outbound communications.  Kodak have a list of all of their staff on their Follow us website
  7. If you have the resources, monitor each employees use of their chosen business social media channels to be able to  proactively respond to any issues that occur.
  8. Have an effective Crisis management plan in place.  Involve the Comms team and the PR team.  Make this plan part of your social media policy
  9. Make sure you have enough people who can listen to the outbound stream to detect if a crisis develops and act accordingly
  10. Revisit the plan and make sure it’s refreshed often.  Unlike the employee policy social media changes often so you need to be flexible.

And then you can relax – hopefully Smile

How to tell if your boss is lying

Wow, I remember a lot of these verbal cues from my days in the corporate world. 

How many of these can you identify in your own boss?

  • Use more references to general knowledge (“as you know…”), and refer less to shareholder value
  • Use fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words”. Instead of describing something as “good”, they call it “fantastic”.
  • Avoid the word “I”, opting instead for the third person.
  • Use fewer “hesitation words”, such as “um” and “er”, suggesting that they may have been coached in their deception.
  • More frequent use of swear words indicates deception.

Thanks to the Economist for the article…

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Ignore Gen Y at your peril

four teen girls looking at cell phone

95% of generation Y have joined a social network

So what?

Well these youngsters of today are tomorrows executives.  They are currently at college and university.  They are on fast track roles to management, middle management and exec level.  You have hired them.  You are training them to be your replacement.  For when you’re taking your foot off the pedal, and want to take things easy.

But you can’t

Because you or your company haven’t embraced social media in a structured way.  You have blocked use at the firewall.  You have restricted use to lunchtimes only or out of office hours. 

You don’t understand how Generation Y work

You are irritated that your kids study plugged into their iPods.  They have Facebook on their laptop, they talk in unintelligible jargon, they send text messages without looking at the keyboard, often when their mobile phone is in their pocket.  They carry out multiple strands of activities at once.  They can multi task better than anyone you know.

These kids are the next generation of leaders. And they use social media as their PRIMARY way of communicating.  If you don’t have a good policy and process in place at your workplace, these graduates will not work for you.  They might come for 6 months and move on to a more forward thinking, flexible company that can accommodate the new way of working.

I’m afraid you have no choice if you want to stay ahead of the field.  Adopt this safely, with some great corporate guidelines, procedures and policies in place and you’ll attract talent from universities and more.  You’ll also attract talent from your less forward thinking competitors who haven’t realised the risks of losing their workforce of the future.

… Unless of course you’re happy with your crowd of Generation Z’s Zzzzzzz……

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Your boss: Is it personal?

For all of those Microsoftees working hard on their commitments for FY11, there are some interesting insights and arguments for introducing social behavioural analysis into the enterprise.  I often hear people wondering whether the end of year rating system is totally fair and if managers personal opinions haven’t had something to do with the score.  This statement might ring true for a few people working in large companies or who have little or no interaction with their manager.  Sameer notes:

If you’ve moved up the ladder at work, you’re aware of 2 things:

1) Manager/Skip Level/ Peer Performance reviews drive progression BUT

2) Soft Metrics (i.e. how your boss and peers generally feel about you) often trump hard documented goals.

Sameers blog post goes on to discuss how the adoption of behavioural targeting can change the way that employees behave.  Often employees who are on difficult to achieve targets will be reluctant to work on anything that doesn’t directly influence their objectives and are focused entirely on themselves or their immediate team.  They are reluctant to collaborate with others as it will impact their performance and ultimately their end of year result.  Unfortunately this isn’t a good idea if you want to have an agile company with everyone in tune about what’s going on and how they can help the company perform better.

When an email is distributed from the execs, the likelihood is that over 90% of the readers of the mail do not do anything about it.  The same is true for social conversations.  Look at your Twitter followers for example and see how many of them actually interact with you.  But this exec memo was written for a reason, and it probably needs an action. 

How valuable to the company are the employees that ignore the email?  And how valuable are those that actively contributes.  Sameer says:

Employees now can become crucial information brokers for these communications and social analytics gives exec comms a good idea of which pockets of influence to tap into to spread specific messages.

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If organisations had social analysis tools, like this one by SocialCast, then the valuable interaction and collaboration between your colleagues and peers can be evaluated and their importance to the company as a whole.  Active participants can be rewarded, whilst the lurkers in the organisation can be coached in the best ways to collaborate.

And at the end of the year, if you’ve been collaborating and contributing to your internal network, sharing knowledge inside the company, then there will be statistics to demonstrate your worth to the organisation and the personal opinion of your manager will hardly matter at all.

The new way of working?  I think so. :)

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Keep thinking about the trivial things

I’m still impressed by Rory Sutherland who talked at TED London earlier this year and why you should really think about the little things which are often overlooked in large projects. Unfortunately the general theory is that big important problems require big important solutions and not simple things like using a piece of material to filter parasitic larvae from your drinking water.

 

 

Where would we be without Cats Eyes in the road, the hairgrip or the humble safety pin?  They are not very grand items in the scheme of things, but they are actually vital components when doing a job.

The same can be said of other projects involving how to influence humans to do the right thing and to remember that the best ideas often don’t come from the board – but from the workforce itself who are contributing to make the company great.  Small changes are often just what you might need to make a really big difference.

Kudos to the bnet blog for the link.

 

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Going it alone…

I found a really interesting post on the best article blog today.  6 reasons why people are afraid to start a business.

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I identified with a couple of the points.

  • Uncertainty.  When you’ve been used to having a regular business it can be really terrifying not to get paid each month – but when the cheque comes in – it’s large enough to get you through the next few months.  you need to plan your finances properly
  • Indecisions: Do you have a strong proposition?  Are you prepared to change it?  My proposition has changed several times over the year as I refine the service that I deliver.  Be prepared to be flexible

Others I think should be added:

  • Security:  working for a company – even one with threats of redundancy hanging over it might be better than being out on your own.  You might not want to leave the security of the ship that you’re on.  Think about it.  Do you have the courage?
  • Type:  Are you the entrepreneur type?  Do you need to feel part of an organisation or are you proud to be master of your own world?
  • Time:  How long can you see yourself doing this?  A year? 5  years? For ever?  Take a look at your timeline and try to work out if this is REALLY what you want to do.

It can be a scary place to be, but it could be very worth while.  Well it’s changed my life for the better in less than a year…

Go for it! :-)

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