I google you: crisis communication in the digital age

Asteroid!People tend to be much more frank on the web than they would be in person. They generally hold back from ranting or yelling when speaking face to face. When browsing the web, people suffer a demonic metamorphosis: rants and offensive comments seem easy and possible. Companies, always prepared to face emergencies such as fire, power cuts, and other occasional crises, recklessly underestimate the destructive effect of negative reviews on the web and on social networks, a more immediate and likely occurrence.

Not controlling the web becomes an own goal for many brands which implode under the weight of negative criticism spread on the web.

The law struggles to keep pace with web regulation. Cancelling an entry on google is difficult and often longwinded. Meanwhile, what your customers, potential customers or business partners see on the web, is uncontrolled information that might damage your business enormously.

What does the CEO do in this case? Obviously furious, he or she hires a lawyer, who has his or her own tools, such as injunctions and the ability to settle a lawsuit and so on.

But, it takes a decade to get a result ( at least in Italy). In the end, it is not satisfactory to proceed in this way.

A crisis that is not handled properly and immediately, leads to company collapse, unemployed managers and lawyers on vacation with their yachts. Thus, prevention of a crisis is better. Moreover, the first thing most people do before shopping, is to check the web.

A crisis on the web should be managed with good PR practices, in a timely fashion and preferably before they occur. After, is always a bit too late.

But how do you handle it? Obviously it depends on the situation but generally with honesty and decisiveness, openly admitting to the problem. Visitors to the web, are likely to believe you and a crisis may become a great victory. If you decide not to speak and entrench yourself behind a “No Comment”, you lose the battle for your reputation.

At the end of the day only you can save your reputation in a difficult situation. Nobody will fight openly to support you, even if you have been working with an associate or in a venture satisfactorily for many years.

The solution is foresight, awareness, realism, good planning, lots and lots of testing and preparation. The worst can always happen, but at least you will be prepared.

Reflect on the fact that the web crisis is global and it is fruitless to think it is limited to one country. Along with incredible market opportunities there are huge risks.

The proliferation of sites that judge the companies’ services, from travel, to transportation, to every kind of product, delivers justice to the many unreliable services, but can also be used for specious argument. Build yourself a good reputation on the web and offer a counterpoint to avoid being at the mercy of the “enemy.”