Prepare for crises before they happen with a wiki

crisis.jpgIn my discussions with PR professionals, the issue of crisis management comes up quite frequently. The web is becoming the go-to medium for delivering the message to the public and the media. The problem is that the process of creating the message has remained unchanged.

Setting up a closed, internal wiki can help facilitate message creation ahead of time using your best thinkers. If you're unfamiliar with a wiki, or haven't used one, it's simplified content management that allows a group of people to combine their input over time. To the user, it's as simple as creating and editing a Word document.

Here are some challenge/opportunity statements:

Challenge Opportunity
Response needs to be timely, but your best people may not be available. Use the wiki to get the best input from your best thinkers. When a crisis happens you have the collective wisdom of your team available.
Messages in the heat of a crisis are usually reactionary. Using a closed wiki lets PR professionals collaborate and craft crisis response messages before they're needed.
Crises are unpredictable Using a wiki to brainstorm possible crisis scenarios and then tailoring responses can help sharpen your team's thinking.
PR teams change over time, knowledge comes and goes Using a wiki creates a running repository of thinking over time. Comments and thoughts are captured and stored for future reference creating a knowledge base which can/should extent beyond the crisis aspect of this post.

What other scenarios can you think of that would benefit from using a wiki?

UPDATE: David Lemley posted a good story on MarketingProfs today about crisis management using the recent pet food debacle as his example. Check it out here.

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Immediacy vs. accuracy, the information battleground

watch.jpgWhat ratio of immediacy-to-accuracy is important to you? If something is reported within minutes of it happening, does that have more value to you than something that is more accurate, but is delayed a day? This is the realm in which traditional media and bloggers compete and the battle is heating up.

Immediacy, by its very nature is not always accurate vis-à-vis being accurate takes more time. Information consumers are having to face this challenge in increasing frequency now. Let's look at this from the two sides of the equation from a consumer's perspective.


Timeliness is the essence of blogging. No medium in recent years allows more people to publish more content quicker. As a result of this, however, accuracy suffers. To combat the inaccuracies consumers have adjusted their expectations when reading blog content. Bloggers re-publish posts as facts are sorted out or new information becomes available.

Traditional Media

On the other hand, consumers have a different expectation of traditional media. Traditional media has a reputation (hopefully) for accuracy and factual reporting. You can just hear the movie line now can't you? The big, burly publisher turns to green reporter and says "I need more copy on this and you need another source." This is not a discussion that happens in blogging.

Back to my opening question, what do you value more? If you have a source that lets you know breaking news first, won't you be loyal to them over less timely choices? Have you been burned before by relying too heavily on a blog or Wikipedia entry that wasn't accurate? Check out the following diagram for a visual of how this question presents itself to consumers and publishers. The ideal situation is to find a balance between speed and accuracy. This can vary from topic-to-topic and market-to-market as coverage changes.

infobattleground .png

Traditional media is being put under more pressure to deliver blog-like timeliness, but maintain their accurate reputation. Bloggers are, contrarily, being put under more pressure to be accurate in posting. The consumer's expectations need to be adjusted in each case. Traditional media can post blog content and update it as news breaks and details become more clear as long as the consumer is clear it is a blog. Bloggers need to be more careful on stating information as fact if it is opinion and keep blog posts up to date with current information.

In the end, the line between the two media is already blurring. Newspapers and magazines turn to user-generated content, comments and traditional reporting as a way to keep readers interested. just announced (today) a new, user-community format. Reviews of USAToday's move have been mixed, but the shift is definitely happening. Publishers need to realize the value of immediacy and consumer input. Bloggers need to work on overall accuracy and traditional media partnerships to give a more complete picture of a topic.

Here is some food for thought:

  • Can traditional media reach users in the way bloggers do?
  • How can traditional media change the expectations of consumers?
  • What can bloggers learn from traditional reporting?
  • Does it matter to you where you get news from?

Let me hear what you think.

Update: Steve Rubel has a post with his take on the challenge.

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Crowdsourcing, a great customer conversation starter

ielogo.gifI posted a couple of days ago about Dell's new IdeaStorm site. On the site Dell is soliciting ideas from their customers and then using those ideas as a center for the rest of the Dell web experience. The site has been well received (outside of the usual Dell haters) and it's a great step forward to really engage their customers and leverage them to bring new products to market.

I just saw another, VERY similar site pop up through my feeds via David Terrar at BusinessTwoZero.'s IdeaExchange looked so similar that I had to go back to Dell to compare. When I clicked the small "powered by AppExchange" logo on the Dell site I was taken to, guess who? Dell is using SalesForce's completely branded third-party system. Kudos to Dell for using it, but more kudos to SF for creating it and offering to clients.

Here is a quick breakdown of the components:

Users post ideas

Picture 7.png

A simple form lets users get started quickly. They can upload images of what they're suggesting and write as much as they need to get their point across.

Promote the ideas

Picture 8.png

The users on the site promote ideas they think are valuable. This way the site owner gets to see the most popular ideas as promoted by the group. The promotion link is next to each idea and users just click to vote for what they like.

Picture 11.png

Discuss the ideas

Picture 9.png

This is the important part for companies. Once ideas start to gain popularity, users discuss them, find the logic holes, suggest solutions and start to build a more complete, finished plan. This allows companies to step in toward the end, take the idea, add technical architecture details and implement more rapidly.

See the delivery

Picture 10.png

Another key to this system is to show the customers that ideas are being taken to completion. This module allows the company to queue projects which have gone through submission, voting and discussion and are in the final stages of being implemented. Credit to the user(s) who created the idea is key and the "fame" they gain through this process will encourage other users to interact.

The model seems great. I wouldn't be surprised to see more Wiki features be added to the discussion portion of this to enable more structured interaction, but the core system looks solid and customer-friendly. Ideas are crucial for success. It's great to see companies like Dell and SalesForce notice this and start engaging customers with a great use of technology.

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What's worse than a flog? Why not to piss off the wikimmunity

150px-Wikipedia-logo-en-big.pngIf you're not familiar with the term 'flog' it means to fake a blog. There has been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere as more and more companies are trying to get a piece of the social marketing pie. The problem is that some of those companies are so unremarkable, with no real devoted following, that PR and advertising agencies are creating fictitious people to blog in the company's behalf. (See my posts '20 common mistakes of eager bloggers' point #9 and this post of mine on the DigiKnow blog for more information.)

I push all clients who we engage with to provide full transparency when dealing in social marketing. This includes who you are specifically and making sure the contribution you're making is in the spirit of the online community. The risks of not doing such far outweigh any benefits. Each community has its own neighborhood watch program. Citizen police forces band together to investigate, gather evidence and convict anyone found in violation.

The latest corporate miscalculation is Microsoft. They've been reported to have offered a blogger money to change their entry on Wikipedia, the free,online, open-source encyclopedia. This is a cardinal sin of the Wikimmunity. The posting, editing, change and approval processes make up the law and only legitimate alterations are accepted. Corrections from corporations are frowned upon due to their biased nature.

Here is just some of the coverage: CNN, WSJ, Redmond Magazine (an online Microsoft mag), Guardian and many more.

This only emphasizes the need for full disclosure and transparency when promoting corporate interests through social marketing whether that is through blogging, commenting on blogs, posting images, editing wikis or interacting in SecondLife. Interactions in these communities combined with Google's caching servers make getting away with anything almost impossible and certainly traceable.

Certainly social marketing can be done and can be effective if targeting the right audience, but it should be a piece of a broader marketing strategy.

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