New research has indicated that legal specialists widely agree that reputation is one of a company’s most valuable assets. However, in-house legal departments aren’t sufficiently engaging in the social media crisis preparations required to safeguard their firms’ reputations online.
The study, ‘Social Media’s Role in Crisis Management’ highlighted the importance of reputation management. Almost all (91%) of the in-house lawyers polled said that a company’s reputation is its most important asset.
Online reputation is particularly important with consumers and professionals increasingly using search engines to research businesses. Therefore, you need to ensure that the first page of a Google search for your company’s name lists digital assets that reflect your company in a positive light.
Importance of social media
Google recognises social media posts as trusted sources of information. Therefore, if unwanted content concerning your business is posted on social media, it’s likely that said content will rank on the first page of a Google search for your company’s name, damaging its reputation online.
This was corroborated by the above survey; 85% of in-house lawyers polled agreed that the advent of social media has greatly increased the potential for a minor reputational problem to turn into a significant PR crisis. Furthermore, 62% of UK respondents and 88% of those in US said that most reputational crises are self-inflicted by employees at their respective companies.
Yet legal teams have a false sense of security when it comes to social media planning. Nine out of every 10 lawyers surveyed said that it isn’t likely that a social media crisis would pose a legal risk to their businesses in the next year.
However, they feel differently when it comes to the individual consequences of social media activity. When asked about which digital issues were of “deep” concern from a legal perspective, 50% said “improper sharing of confidential information on social media,” more than any other issue raised by the questionnaire.
Meanwhile, “inflammatory comments on social media regarding their company” came second at 43%. Therefore this research made it clear that it’s hard to control what people say about your company on social media. This leaves your company vulnerable to social media crises that could damage its online reputation, especially if it has legal ramifications that generate significant online press and social media attention.
This suggests that you need to be equipped to deal with a social media crisis, yet the report makes it clear that many legal teams aren’t adequately prepared. The above research found that 21% of lawyers admitted that their company has experienced a social media crisis during their tenure, but just 54% have received training on how social media impacts their firm.
Crisis management tips
The study indicates that you need to ensure that your company is prepared for, and can manage, a social media crisis should one arise. Here are five tips to help your company safeguard its reputation against the risk posed by social networking activity:
- Write a plan: Only 63% of companies in the study had a plan to respond to a social media crisis. But one could hit you at any time, so you need to plan for it. Think about what situations could arise, and take steps to prevent them from happening. When you’re under the pressure of an actual crisis, immediacy and communication is everything and it’s hard to get this right when you’re not prepared.
- Conduct drills: Your employees need to know how to implement your plan for it to prove effective. According to the research, it’d take 38 hours, on average, for in-house legal counsel to react to a social media crisis; far too long when one unwanted piece of content can go viral within minutes. Conduct regular social media crisis drills so that your staff has the experience necessary to act speedily should a real crisis occur.
- Make people responsible: Everyone should be aware of what part they play in your crisis communications plan, and everyone should agree on what should be said. Often, a company’s legal counsel and the PR/marketing team can come to blows on what’s best to say. But in a crisis instant response is everything, so make sure your response is planned and agreed upon beforehand so there’s no time wasted arguing when it happens.
- Monitor activity: There’s nothing more important for limiting the risk of a crisis than monitoring. This allows you to spot any social media issues the minute they arise, providing you with the time you need to respond and restrict its effect on your business’ reputation. We’d suggest you monitor social media channels for your company’s key brand terms, there’s plenty of software available for this task, to prevent an incident on social media concerning your business becoming a full-blown reputational crisis.
Safeguard online reputation
If you don’t prepare for a social media incident, it can turn a small issue into a full blown reputational crisis for your company. Therefore it’s vital that you implement measures to prevent a social media crisis, or limit its effect if one occurs, to safeguard your business’ reputation online.
Get in touch with me in confidence if you’d like to discuss implementing a crisis response strategy or learn more about how to monitor the conversation about your company online.