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  • Ron Favali

Are Current Social Media Tactics Jeopardizing Your Future Crisis Communications Needs?

On the spectrum of enterprise communica​tions, Social

Media and Crisis Communications sit on opposite ends.

Most employees are encouraged to use Social Media on a regular basis to further corporate messaging, promote announcements, and demonstrate industry expertise. Crisis communications activities are controlled by a select few and obviously used only when needed.

This week, Intel is in the process of executing a crisis communications plan for a flaw identified in chips that affects nearly every computer and mobile device sold in the last ten years. I’m not going to get into the details here, but by all accounts, Intel seems to be managing this crisis communications situation as efficiently as they can. They acted swiftly and communicated they are working on addressing the situation.

The reality with a company like Intel is that nearly everyone is an Intel customer. Across the IT landscape almost every hardware and software vendor is either an Intel customer or partner.

It is in this capacity that I’m somewhat appalled, but not that surprised, how the IT community responded to Intel’s dilemma. You don’t have to search too hard across the social media channel of your choice to find Tweets and posts about Intel like:

  • Triple check your math, boys and girls. An employee at a US-based multinational IT vendor

  • Whoa! All Intel processors made in the last decade might have a massive security flaw. An employee at a major social media vendor

  • We translated Intel's crap attempt to spin its way out of CPU security bug PR nightmare. An employee at a security vendor

  • Is there going to be a huge class action suit against Intel? An employee at a software startup

As I was careful to note, these are the posted opinions of employees and do not necessarily represent the view of their employer. Regardless, in one capacity or another, each post was from an employee at a company that is either in Intel partner, customer, or both.

If you believe the initial wave of press and social activity it leads you to think the end is nigh. If that’s the case, many other crisis communications plans will need to be launched into action. But I doubt it is.

As more thoughtful reporting gets done on this, the story starts to become clearer. TechCrunch is reporting there is a difference between “devices being “vulnerable” to these flaws, but that’s not the same thing as saying they’re totally open to attack.”

From a marketing and communications perspective, here’s the disconcerting part about the initial negative wave of social activity from customers and partners:

  • Every mobile app in the world has bugs.

  • Every piece of enterprise software in the market has vulnerabilities.

  • Every piece of hardware, ranging from a mobile device to an enterprise server can fail at any minute for almost any reason.

These are all facts that can't be disputed.

We live in a world of improving on minimum viable products after they have been used in the market. In this world, problems will always happen.

I don’t know for certain if there will be repercussions for negative social media commentary directed at Intel to future crisis communications needs of the companies whose employees made the posts. However, this can serve as an opportunity to educate employees and enhance social media policies across the board. Namely, if you live in a glass house, you may want to avoid throwing stones at a problem your company will undoubtedly experience in the future.

I completely support aggressive competitive communications programs based on demonstrable leadership facts, which is different from throwing rocks. There is also a difference between using social media to educate your followers on a particular issue versus using it to mock, especially when the opportunity will likely exist for someone to return the favor.

As with all communications stemming from an enterprise, it's usually better and more productive to put your best foot forward.

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