Crisis management: impressions from a war-game

A few weeks ago I set up a war game for a large company. The game scenario dealt with a wide scale media crisis. The game gained much success, due to the fact that in end, the participants felt discontent. The scenario had made them realize that the world had changed and that there company is not prepared towards a large scale media crises which social networks can initiate. Before the game took place, the company's state of mind in dealing with PR crises was of tactical responses when dealing with specific expressions of disappointment by costumers. But what is to be done when a Facebook group, which consists of thousands of disappointed costumers, opens? How should the company react when its Facebook page gets flooded by hundreds of angry comments? And how does one deal with the collapse of the service center, when the anger towards the company spreads virally? The scenario which was the core of this war game situated a complicated situation such as this, and it challenged the company with these unmerciful questions.

The game I have mentioned crossed my mind as I read an interesting post by the excellent editor of the “Social Media Intelligence” website. The Post discusses the march of folly of dictators, leaderships and political establishments in democratic regimes, and even in big business corporations – all of which tried to cope with public protests by shutting down, silencing or ignoring social networks and the messages that passed through it. The present vast social protest in Israel teaches us that we are currently situated in a new age, regarding the motivation and ability of the public to express its opinions; and regarding the attempts to silence or disregard the messages the public sends. This is where the need for creating new perceptions and operative tools for dealing with types of protests such as this, derives from. As BP, Nestle and other companies have learned through bitter experience, applying methods of old-school public-relations in order to face media crises, are not only un-effective, but even cause harm. Ignoring, or worse – silencing of the public protest, in an age where information flows, leaks and streams from Facebook pages, twits, blogs or YouTube – is mere foolishness. Sterile attempts to find “hidden” and irrelevant motives behind a large scale protest of citizens or consumers, indicate nothing but a basic misperception of the reality in a changing world, and are nothing but un-successful attempts for censorship.

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