February 1, 2015

With the rise of social media, association executives, legal professionals, and those suspicious of the risks involved for an organization’s reputation seem to be raising more concerns about the risks to a nonprofit organisation’s reputation. Undoubtedly, there are risks but they are manageable and in may circumstances, avoidable.  The mistake: Having social media sites without preparing for disaster.

From a recent study I found, 34% of chief communications officers polled say they experienced a social-media reputation attack in the past 12 months. They now happen so often, they’ve earned the title of a “flash crisis.”

A flash crisis happens when a negative social media communication via a Facebook post, Tweet or negative Yelp review goes viral and the winds of chatter whip it into a firestorm. Before you know it, a social media site has spawned a serious public relations issue.

The trouble is, according to the studies, only one in 3 organizations say they’ve prepared a standing strategy to tackle reputational threats from social media.  A crisis does not usually disappear quickly, especially if there is litigation or law enforcement involved. An association needs to have crisis counsel with it every step of the way to measure what is happening with the media and public opinion ensuring that the crisis does not negatively affect a nonprofit organisation going forward.

This has me wondering though, certainly social media has its risks but in truth, risks to your organization have always existed and will likely continue regardless of social media or not.  But this should hardly be enough reason to avoid being present and communicating with your target audiences.  In a blog posting and video of last year, I made the point that if your NGO is afraid the presence of social media opens your organization up to criticism, you’re actually very naive to believe that the potential for criticism didn’t exist beforehand in your media relations, public relations, or other aspects of your brand awareness.

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