In this interview, RiskInsight‘s Principal Consultant, Gareth Byatt, and LifeRaft’s Communications Manager, Melissa Cooper, discuss how social media can be leveraged in a crisis.
This interview is within a series focused on Crisis Management and is accompanied by some really interesting discussions, including an interview with Richard de Crespigny – the Captain of the QF32 flight that suffered a critical mid-air engine explosion and landed with no fatalities.
Interviewer: Gareth Byatt – Principal Consultant, Risk Insight Consulting
Interviewee: Melissa Cooper, Communications Manager, LifeRaft
Gareth: Thank you for making the time to share with me your thoughts about the importance of using social media effectively for crisis and resilience management.
I wondered whether I could start by asking if you could describe an overview about LifeRaft and the markets you cater for.
Melissa: The way in which we communicate is constantly evolving, the social channels, the blogs, boards – they grow at an exponential rate and it is impossible to monitor all of them manually and not miss something.
So often we hear that there was tangible information publicly available that would have helped prevent an event or would have at the very least provided tactical intelligence to help mitigate losses or respond more effectively.
LifeRaft developed Navigator almost 5 years ago to bridge that gap between physical and digital security coverage. The first component is automating the collection of relevant posts from social media, blogs and chatboards, and even the darknet.
Companies are most often looking to identify security risks to their people, properties, and other assets. But identifying it is only half the battle, the platform then provides the necessary investigative tools to then validate and understand more about those threats or security risks so that companies can effectively respond.
Utilizing Social Media for Crisis Events
Gareth: In today’s world, there’s no doubt that social media has a significant role to play in the unfurling of a crisis event of any kind. I have spoken to people who have dealt with crises for years who tell me they used to refer to a term called “The Golden Hour”, as the amount of time we used to have to respond to think through and then respond outwardly to such events. This has become Golden Minutes, because things are streamed and “out there” so fast. Is it fair to say that solutions like Navigator can help Communications people and others who need to respond outwardly to such events to quickly understand what’s going on, in order to very quickly position a strategy to respond?
Melissa: Definitely a key piece of the puzzle. I think anyone in the crisis response world would say that information is absolutely critical in developing a response strategy. The issue is most often separating the critical intel from the noise.
And manually searching for it is far too time consuming in a crisis. Using any technology to leverage time and resources will improve response time and make more informed decisions will ultimately help the work in saving or protecting people and assets.
Gareth: The management of emergency communications, including working with social media, is crucial in the early part of a crisis event occurring. What are some of the good practices that are seeing being adopted by businesses on this?
Melissa: Integrating technology across divisions, and other resource sharing between divisions, is very much becoming a best practice. No security division should work in silos but have often had to as a result of limited resources or just trying to keep up with increased workload.
Bridging that gap and sharing intelligence results means that, whether it is a physical or a digital issue, everyone who needs it has the most information available to make the best-informed decision. Today, as we have discussed, these worlds are merging ever more closely together, and almost always have crossover with digital detection.
Social Media Monitoring in the Business Sector
Gareth: Are you seeing an increasing demand for these types of social media monitoring and information gathering solutions to help to monitor situations, and to respond to crisis events?
Melissa: We are. Many companies have identified the need to proactively monitor social media and other digital sources because it is almost always where people go to source information in the aftermath of an event. People find information and think “this could have really helped, if only we had seen or known about it earlier”. With a platform like Navigator, we’re enabling companies to have that insight in real-time.
Gareth: How much training do people need to use solutions like Navigator? Often, tools that are set up for Crisis Management Teams (CMTs) are only used (fortunately) occasionally, so ease of use when under pressure is critical.
Melissa: That’s something we’re really proud of. Our platform was built for security agencies specifically, and the interface is very intuitive. Training sessions are typically 1 hour long, and we recommend two sessions. We have such a great team at LifeRaft that gets to know our users specifically, and will customize training to meet their needs. So for teams that are primarily using Navigator for crisis communications, they are quickly trained on which toolsets and workflows work best for them in real-time.
Gareth: I am a big supporter of holding thorough and well-planned tests and simulations to ensure that CMTs are as prepared as they can be for a crisis event, when it occurs. Is it accurate for me to say that a solution like Navigator can be used to simulate social media elements that CMTs have to deal with in a life-like simulation?
Melissa: Yes and no – We don’t simulate crises events, but teams can certainly use Navigator as crises events unfold and also in their own simulations. What we recommend, and initially train CMTs on, would be to explore lessons learned from historic and relevant crises and how a social media monitoring and investigative tool could be leveraged in future, taking these learnings into account. From these reviews, teams can get an understanding of how powerful these sources are and how to best manage them.
Monitoring Data Post Event
Crisis Management Teams can continue to utilize Navigator to monitor post-event data.
Gareth: After the initial heightened activity of a major crisis event passes, dealing with brand management and ensuring reputation is maintained is important. I am guessing that a Crisis Management Team can continue to use a tool like Navigator to monitor ongoing response about their organisation for some time after an event has occurred.
Melissa: I think our customers would argue that it is absolutely a necessity. There is so much more to a crisis, as you know well, than just the initial event. Managing the reputation and related employee protection is critical and more of that happens online these days than anyone can fathom.
Gareth: I’d like to finish by asking if you and your team are reading any particular books, papers or reviews at the moment that readers may find of interest to look up for themselves.
Melissa: Definitely. We have some case studies and papers that people can access by heading to our website – liferaftinc.com, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can simply google LifeRaft – Navigator case studies and you’ll be able to find us there.
Gareth: Thank you very much for your time, Melissa.