Business Cannot Ignore Social Media for Crisis Communications According To Gartner

Business Cannot Ignore Social Media for Crisis Communications According To Gartner

Social media can hold the key to transforming enterprise business continuity management (BCM), especially crisis communications practices, according to Gartner, Inc.

Analysts predict that by 2015, 75% of organisations with BCM programs will have public social media services in their crisis communications strategies, and they advised BCM professionals to immediately begin assessing social media's opportunities — and risks.

"Enterprises simply cannot afford to ignore social media as a crisis communications tool," said Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner. "In many cases, social media may represent the only available means of locating and contacting personnel; providing stakeholders with the information and assistance they need; informing citizens, customers and partners of product/service availability; and taking other business-critical actions following a disruptive event."

However, Walls said that effective use of a new communications channel need advanced planning and practice. Attempting to use social media for the first time during a crisis can cause more harm than good. Instead, he said that organisations must develop comprehensive social media strategies and tactics for crisis/incident management and integrate social media with the enterprise's established BCM processes.

Speaking ahead of the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations & Data Centre Summit in Sydney next week, Gartner research vice president Roberta Witty said that the use of social media for user input and knowledge sharing can create a conflict for organisations when the sites are being used during a crisis by the workforce and others that are involved or watching the event unfold.

"As the workforce develops personal, digital friendships that might take precedence over the official spokesperson of the organisation, a conflict over who is the authority during an event can emerge, leading to unanticipated and negative results if official procedures are not followed," said Witty.

"Such usage shouldn't turn into a battle for control, but organisations must protect their reputations and the effectiveness of their communications during stressful times. Therefore, putting forth a social media management strategy as part of a BCM program is essential to ensure that the organisation's crisis communications effectiveness is protected, and that response and recovery plans and procedures are followed."

Social media is very different, technically and culturally, from the tightly controlled technologies and means of communication that enterprises are accustomed to using and supporting (such as corporate email systems). The use of social media for collection and distribution of information can create serious challenges for enterprises:

  • Maintaining an authoritative and credible information source
  • Enlisting active, effective participation of staff and the public that are active in social media
  • Collecting, filtering, analysing and applying information gathered from social platforms

"Organisations developing social media strategies and tactics for crisis management must take these factors into account by establishing effective authorisation processes, content guidelines, and monitoring and message retention capabilities," Ms. Witty said. "The bottom line is that no enterprise's BCM efforts can afford to ignore the opportunities and risks presented by social media. Crisis PR specialists should begin working now to integrate social media tools and practices into their BCM efforts."