Leverage Social Media for Crisis Management

By Samuel Greengard

A growing focus on mission-critical IT has forced many organizations to devote greater attention to crisis management and business continuity management (BCM). However, many of these same enterprises are failing to fully tap social media as a critical resource, according to a new PwC Business Continuity Insights Survey.

The research, which included responses from 300 executives and managers, found that 57 percent of organizations do not officially use social media for crisis management. Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents are modestly leveraging social media as a tool, but not necessarily realizing improvements in their overall BCM approach. Ultimately, only 8 percent of respondents believe that social media has helped their organization become more proactive in the way it responds to crisis events.

“Social media adoption for business continuity and resiliency has not kept pace with its increasing use by the general population,” points out Phil Samson, principal in PwC’s Risk Assurance practice and the firm’s Business Continuity Management service leader. While some organizations have delved into the social media sphere, “The majority are still hesitant about utilizing social media as a crisis management tool,” he says.

But there’s good news for those using this approach successfully. These organizations see quicker, more pragmatic and user-friendly plan development and maintenance approaches that better align with enterprise risks and strategy, Samson explains.

The study found that 55 percent are utilizing shorter, streamlined, and more user-friendly plan documents; 53 percent have restructured by including regional locations or centralizing teams; and 26 percent share elements of their BCM plans and procedures with critical third parties.

Samson sees the BCM social media space evolving rapidly: “As social media’s use in an organization becomes more pervasive and management grows more comfortable with it, BCM programs will naturally begin to adopt social media for internal and external crisis communications.”

He suggests that business and IT executives examine their organization’s overall crisis communication plan and look for ways to build in social media tools that streamline connections with employees, business partners and customers. “They should look at the more likely crisis and risk scenarios and determine if social media could be used to facilitate crisis identification, internal and external communications, and recovery coordination efforts,” he explains.

Samson also suggests implementing a third-party resiliency management process in order to ensure that “a critical third party’s crisis doesn’t become yours.” At present, 64 percent of respondents are involving one or more critical third parties as part of their organization’s BCM programs, and 83 percent are involved in identifying and planning for a loss on the part of third parties. In some cases, however, silos and cross-functional breakdowns hinder these initiatives.

Finally, resiliency and recovery must be built into the design and strategy formulation. Business and IT leaders must view social media as a crisis management tool for not only responding to an event, but also for aiding in the recovery process.

“Business continuity team members must possess relevant operations and process knowledge, communicate effectively with executive stakeholders, have risk management functional experience, and exhibit a continuity and resiliency ‘consulting’ mindset to partner with process designers,” Samson concludes.