Social media pivotal in crisis management strategies

Social media holds the key to transforming enterprise business continuity management (BCM), specifically within crisis/incident management practises, new research has shown.

According to Gartner, 75% of organisations with BCM programs will have public social media services in their crisis communications strategies by 2015. Additionally, the analysts have advised BCM professionals to immediately begin assessing social media’s opportunities and risks.

Andrew Walls from Gartner said: “Enterprises simply cannot afford to ignore social media as a crisis communications tool. 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 says that effective use of a new communication channel requires forward planning and organisations must develop comprehensive social media strategies and tactics for crisis management and integrate this with their BCM processes.

According to Gartner, 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 those watching the event.

Roberta Witty, research vice president at Gartner, said: “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.

“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.”

The report also showed that as social media is very different, technically and culturally, from the tightly controlled technologies and means of communication that enterprises are used to. Collecting and distributing information via social media can cause serious challenges for organisations, said Gartner.

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

The full report can be viewed here.

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