3 ways to detect a digital PR crisis early

An online firestorm can erupt any moment. Here are three tips for identifying—and quelling—small brouhahas before they spiral into all-out catastrophes.

Want to protect your brand from Internet attacks? Want to quash social media rumors and protect your corporate reputation?

Good news: You can detect social media crises—before they happen, says James E. Lukaszewski, president of The Lukaszewski Group Division of Risdall Public Relations. Here are three quick tips for doing just that:

1. Create a SMART team. Social media monitoring is your most important defensive mechanism when it comes to online crisis management, says Lukaszewski. He warns that it’s not enough to simply use monitoring tools such as Google Alerts, Radian6 or Oracle SRM.

He suggests creating a Social Media Attack Response Team to notice and act on telltale crisis signs early: “The team should include staff with Web search skills and those already managing your social media. Provide them with key terms, brand names, people names and hashtags to search for on a scheduled basis.”

In addition to regular Google and social network searches, Lukaszewski also recommends searching sites like Technorati and BlogSearchEngine.org.

Register for PR Daily‘s May 21 PR University webinar “Digital-Crisis PR Boot Camp: Neutralize social media attacks, turn the tide” to learn how to manage online crises.

2. Monitor images. Most online crises start small, so it’s important to train your team to “notice the unnoticeable,” says Lukaszewski. “Online attackers often use very subtle yet sophisticated signals to plan in the open.”

Examples include photos. “Flash mob planners may communicate via photos, because search engines can’t search them or interpret an image’s context,” he explains. A photo of a location or landmark where a demonstration might be planned is a perfect example. Hand signals are also common.

3. Categorize cyber attacks. All online attacks follow patterns, says Lukaszewski. Once you recognize the patterns, you can eliminate the mystery and begin to prescribe suitable responses.

For example, he advises studying the following list of 20 most common types of cyber attacks. You might also consider creating a crisis response grid based on these categories:

  • Bellyaching
  • Bloviating
  • Bullying
  • Carping
  • Confrontation
  • Contentiousness
  • Customer retribution
  • Customer service complaint
  • Damage reputation
  • Denial of service
  • Disturb sales
  • Extortion
  • Hate
  • Misinformation
  • Revenge rumors
  • Stock value impairment
  • Terrorism
  • Threats
  • Vent
  • Whispers

Brian Pittman is a consultant to Ragan Communications and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Jim Lukaszewski and Josh Dahmes will share more digital and social media crisis insights in the May 21 PR University webinar, “Digital-Crisis PR Boot Camp: Neutralize social media attacks, turn the tide.

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