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Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy

Corporate crisis teams aren’t ready for social media firestorms
High awareness of social media’s importance is not matched by preparation

Findings from a survey by Gartner Communications – Strategic Communications Consultancy Final Report, August 18th, 2010


3. Summary Survey facts Statistical soundness Detailed findings . 4. 5. 2.Corporations Detailed findings . 7. 8.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Content 1.Agencies Conclusions Appendix: Individual remarks by participants Contact page 3 page 3 page 5 page 5 page 9 page 12 page 13 page 14 2 . 6.

in their current role. Summary Companies globally seem to be relatively unprepared for handling social media in crisis situations.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy 1. nine of whom were screened out for not working in PR. with more than two-thirds of respondents claiming to have defined structured and processes at hand to support their clients. A mere one-tenth of the corporate PR professionals partaking in the survey believe their own organization to be “well prepared” or “excellently prepared” for handling social media in a crisis situation. means that over a third of agencies do not claim to have this ability. contact lists of key online influencers.surveymonkey. 3 . in turn. Some 91 in-house and agency professionals had been asked about the state of preparedness of their own organizations when it comes to dealing with social media in cases of crises. 2. a striking one-third. 2010. These 91 participants came from 31 countries. rather. on www. only about one-fifth have such defined procedures for handling social media as structured online approval procedures for corporate posts in blogs and internet forums and members of the crisis team who specialize in social media. see their organization “not at all prepared” or “relatively unprepared. The inhouse professionals. This gap seems to be good business for agencies: 85% of responding companies do contract external agencies for support in crisis situations. PR agencies seem to be in a better position. Survey facts The survey ran from July 16th to August 12th. rated the importance of social media in crisis situations as a seven on a scale from 1 to 10. whereas only one-fifth of corporate PR staff express that level of confidence. PR agencies are better prepared. A total of 100 individuals accessed the survey. While 85% of responding companies have standard procedures for handling traditional media in crisis situations.” This lack of preparedness sharply contrasts with the perceived current and future importance of social media. 37 work in corporations and 56 work in agencies. with over 60% of participants saying their firms offer clients defined procedures for handling social media in crisis – which still. feel “comfortable with. This conclusion can be drawn from a recent survey carried out by Gartner Communications – Strategic Communications Consultancy. The vast majority – more than 80% – of in-house corporate communications experts answering the survey said their corporations had no defined procedures in place to handle what they – simultaneously – believe to be an increasingly important element of crisis communications.” or even have an “excellent knowledge and experience” in working with media in a crisis situation. with more than two-thirds believing this importance will further increase. This gap in confidence between corporations and agencies seems to be reflected in the self-perception of PR professionals on both sides. Some 60% of agency people said they personally. Out of the 91 participating PR practitioners. on average. Some 85% of agencies say they’re “well prepared” or “excellently prepared” for helping clients deal with social media in crisis situations.

Managing Director. with more than 80% being in managerial functions. Chairman/President/ Account Trainee Principal Director/Account Mgr. or Owner/Partner at an agency. 3% Other 7% 8% 1% Consultant 7% Senior Consultant 3% CEO/Managing Director 14% SVP 3% Head of Corporate Comms 4% VP 4% Partner/Owner 11% Manager 17% Director 18% 4 United Arab Emirates USA UK . Graph 3: Participants by Title Account Executive.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 1: Survey entrants by type of organization (all entrants. Another 22% have a Vice President or Director title. n=91) 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Finland Russia Brazil Switzerland Belgium China Nigeria Germany Ukraine Peru Pakistan Canada Greece Kuwait Argentina Denmark Poland Serbia Kenya Egypt Spain Sweden India Mauritius Indonesia Netherlands Portugal Turkey The professional seniority of participants is high. Principle. Senior Vice President. Head of Corporate Communications. n=100) Graph 2: Participants by country (in-house and agency PR only. CEO. President. Some 40% of participants have titles of Chairman.

and also between listed companies (47%) and privately held ones (53%). we believe that the survey provides a sound general impression of the current state of affairs when it comes to social media and crisis management. the larger the in-house teams.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy 3. with quantitative data merely supporting general qualitative trends. Detailed findings . that not all respondents answered these two questions. 4. In-house teams of 20 and more staff have traditional crisis procedures in place to 100%. With this in mind. Not too surprisingly. the evaluation is primarily qualitative. It must be noted.Corporations The set of corporations participating represents a quite balanced mix in terms of turnover. 5 . The level of preparedness for crises involving social media is quite the opposite – only about one-fifth of corporations claim to have defined processes in place. while for smaller teams below 20 staff this applies to a degree of around 80%. Statistical soundness While not a scientific sample. Graph 4: Companies by turnover (n=32) Graph 5: Size of in-house communication teams (n=33) The survey shows that 85% of participating corporations do have defined procedures in place to manage traditional media in crisis situations. The sizes of in-house communication teams are equally balanced. the better the level of preparation. however.

press releases. etc. The focus seems to be on ad hoc media relations when a crisis hits – one-third of companies do not even undertake pro-active relationship building with media before a crisis actually materializes. and rules for approvals of statements. the most commonly used tools include dedicated crisis manuals. for example. 6 .Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 6: Corporations’ traditional crisis preparedness Graph 7: Corporations’ social media crisis preparedness Among the tools used for traditional crisis preparation. defined media contact lists. Only one-third. training for those crisis team members. some basics are most common: defined crisis team members. Graph 8: Tools of traditional crisis preparation used by corporations For those companies that do have defined processes for handling social media. have available what’s most common in traditional crisis preparation: contact lists of key multipliers. Web-related tools seem to play a niche role even within the traditional preparation schemes – only around one-fifth of companies have prepared websites that can be launched in a matter of hours in the event of a specific crisis. specialized team members on the crisis team and rules for approval of blog posts and the like.

when it comes to managing social media.” Graph 10: Preparedness traditional crisis handling Graph 11: Preparedness social media crisis handling Interestingly. the participants personally feel better prepared than they think their organizations are (20% personally feel “well prepared” or “excellently prepared”. again. while only 11% judge their organizations likewise).Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 9: Tools of social media crisis preparation used by corporations Given those findings. Quite the opposite. 7 . This might possibly hint at general problems of raising the necessary sense of urgency (and related funds?) internally to drive better preparation. where just about 10% say they are “well prepared” or “excellently prepared. it is not too surprising that a large number of corporations see themselves relatively well prepared for handling traditional crises: Almost 60% state their organization is “well prepared” or “excellently” prepared.

Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 12: Personal level of preparedness Graph 13: Corporation’s preparedness All participants seem to be in agreement that an improved preparation is critical. with not a single participant expecting a decrease in importance going forward. Graph 14: Importance of social media in crisis communications currently Graph 15: Expected future importance of social media in crisis communications 8 . Asked to rate the current importance on a scale from 1 to 10. Some 29% think their importance will remain stable. the average rating was 7. with 71% believing this importance will further increase. looking at how the PR pros judge the current importance of social media and – even more importantly – its expected development.

hence it may be speculated whether the actual mix may be different from the data shown. 9 . Graph 16: Participating agencies by turnover (n=46) Graph 17: Participating agencies by staff size (n=48) A majority of agencies responding to the survey do offer their clients crisis management services for both traditional media involvement (76%) and social media involvement (63%). This conclusion might also been drawn from the fact that the share of larger agencies (with related research departments) offering those services is bigger than among smaller ones. a number of respondents have chosen to not deliver those data. As this information is particularly sensitive.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy 5. with a majority representing smaller shops below 20 staff with a turnover under EUR5 million. however. thus taking on their leadership role in developing innovative services and solutions which may be generally expected from them by their clients. Detailed findings – Agencies The set of agencies participating is not quite as balanced as the corporate participants.

Graph 20: Tools of traditional crisis preparation provided by agencies 10 . variations between different techniques are relatively small. again with the exception of the provision of preprepared websites in traditional crisis preparation.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 18: Social media crisis services by smaller agencies Graph 19: Social media crisis services by larger agencies When it comes to the tools offered for both traditional and social media.

given that background. a large majority of agencies see themselves “well-prepared” or “exellently prepared” for handling crises involving social media.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 21: Tools of social media crisis preparation provided by agencies Not surprisingly. 11 . where even if one individual isn’t necessarily an expert. it can trust that the agency as such does have such experts in place.” or have “excellent skills” in this area. Graph 22: Agencies’ social media crisis preparedness Similarly high is the level of confidence agency practitioners have in their own ability to handle social media – 60% say they feel “comfortable. It remains a question why this relative number (85%) even exceeds the share of agencies who say they do offer related services (63%). The fact that this portion is smaller compared to the trust in one’s own agency’s preparedness might be a sign of specialization within agencies.

The fact that just one third of corporations use an intranet to connect all crisis team members in real-time. yet haven’t quite put the necessary procedures in place. seems to suggest a more general lack of familiarity with interactive tools. offering clients processes and tools that are still missing in-house and meeting an obvious demand. 12 . The gap between the relatively high level of awareness of the issue. Agencies. for example. Training and consulting as well as intelligent infrastructure solutions seem to be interesting growth opportunities for them. Conclusions Social media have reached the corporate crisis communications landscape and are here to stay. Corporate Communications pracitioners in-house do realize this trend.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Graph 23: Personal preparedness among agency practicioners 6. identification of key multipliers and subsequent creation of contact lists. on the other hand. As the toolboxes show. defined approval procedures. some basic requirements of social media preparedness could quite easily be catered to by just adapting measures that are commonplace in traditional crisis preparation – like. seem to live up to their innovator role within the industry. which may make the bridge toward handling social media all the wider. structured monitoring services. and specific trainings for members of the crisis teams. and an even smaller percentage has preprepared websites ready to launch in predefined crisis instances. web-based tools (developed long before social media emerged) seem to play a niche role only. One prohibiting factor may be that even within traditional crisis preparation. and the relatively low level of actual preparedness is probably the most stunning finding from this survey.

They should be aware that anything they write is visible. a 'million' facebookers supports a young lady who has been charged with defaming a hospital after she uploaded her dissatisfaction of hospital service. With limited education reserved for the privileged. Appendix: Individual remarks by participants Participants to the survey were invited to leave individual remarks and comments. So they should think before they act.” “Social media speed up process of information flow which demands faster reaction of companies.  “We have experience here in Indonesia that social media successfully secured 'million supporters to fight corruption.” “In general I’d advise my client to make clear to all employees that they should always communicate just as they would like to be communicated with.. But it might be just as important. Make changes in your own corporate behavior where it becomes necessary and walk your talk. creates mock crisis and beyond that organizes a look back at any given crisis situation in order to prevent reoccurrence through lessons learnt. some of which are listed here below. Social Media does not play a very important role.” “Just finished giving a crisis communications talk to a group of business execs.. the social media is presently just a play tool for the rich not the impact making machine in the west.' Also.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy 7.”   13 . It is clear that our firm (and others) need to be more aware of monitoring social media to help head off crisis and to respond to them when they do happen.” “My company organizes constant crisis management training. the role of preparation to crisis grows with the decreasing time for reaction. That 'million' supporters successfully raised funds for her exceeding the amount she had to pay based on court's decision. We were separated from our parent company only a few months ago. The reaction is rather standard: show that you are taking a complaint serious act in a way that will loosen the tension.” “Corporate-level crisis management guidelines and social media guidelines are both in the making in our company and due to be launched before the end of 2010. b2c (and certainly also b2b) companies should have at least a Google alert to start off with social media monitoring.” “PR practitioners must urgently realize how fast and effective social media has become. Very little social media is available in Urdu the local language and if available not used frequently. Why develop a social media crisis communication concept? How many companies have a crisis communication concept for their e-mail communication or their telephone calls? I guess none. so all the necessary communications processes have not been finalized yet. with that means innovative ways of dealing with the pressure that such fast media has on our daily activities!” “Social media is starting to get quite overhyped.”       “In Pakistan.

gartnercommunications.60594 Frankfurt/Main Germany +49 171 56 57 953 mailto: 14 . Contact: Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy Ulrich Gartner Walther-von-Cronberg-Platz 2 D.Gartner Communications Strategic Communications Consultancy 8.gartner@gartnercommunications.