Silence is golden but digital silence is deadly (for your reputation!)

We all know social networks have forever changed how organizations fashion and execute their crisis communications plan. I will demonstrate here that silence, not occupying the public space as soon as you can, will hurt you and your bottom line.

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  1. There have been a few very high profile examples of large organizations not taking the usual route and waiting for some time before addressing issues and public concerns.

    Apple and Sony come to mind. My contention is that this, in most cases, is the wrong approach. This is particularly the case, for emergency situations and government agencies responsible for managing the response to their consequences.

  2. Silence, either as a result of not being prepared, or deliberate (which is bound to fail in the "age of social convergence") only breeds mistrust of authority.

  3. Another key consequence is that silence leaves your reputation at the mercy of others who may not have benevolent intentions. This is explained by Gerald Baron, aka, CrisisBlogger:
  4. An argument often voiced by emergency managers who hesitate to enter the world of social networks (yes, there are still some ! ) is that Twitter and Facebook help disseminate falsehoods, rumours and create uneasiness during disasters. But putting one's head in the sand is not the solution.

  5. The pitfalls, even for large organizations or companies with sterling reputations, such as Apple, can be numerous. Silence does not serve you well in the age of social convergence.
  6. Apple was not alone to adopt the ostrich method of crisis management in the first few days after the story became BIG.
  7. Here's more on why you should avoid the "over-coached", pretend, staged, obviously fake, crisis response à la Tiger Woods:
  8. Tiger Woods Apology Analysis (Video)
  9. On a more serious tone, how do you cope with the changes brought by social networks for crisis communications? One of the solutions is perhaps to become your own broadcaster during an incident or crisis. This is more and more recommended as "bias" in legacy media become more prevalent.

  10. More tips and opinions from crisis communications experts:
  11. My own modest observations in this blog post which links to a presentation i recently gave to media relations officers for the RCMP.
  12. Now, not everything can be solved by the use of social networks and their use presents some challenges too.
  13. To sum up, to be able to deal with a crisis, even flourish, you need to be present! Not hide. 

    This means you need a sound crisis communications plan, pre-approved key messages, the social network platforms ready to go (meaning you've established a presence there already) and cool heads to see it through. 

    That's golden.
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