New digital crisis communications study reveals risks and benefits of social media

Singapore: In Asia, the world’s fastest growing region for manufacturing, two-thirds (67%) of business decision-makers surveyed say they have experienced a crisis, with product safety issues ranking as the predominant source. In the coming year, a majority (53%) expects to have a product safety crisis, and two-thirds say digital and social media have driven up the cost of crisis. However, only 64% of respondents say they have a crisis management plan, and 58% believe there are gaps in their plan.

These are some of the top findings in a new Digital Crisis Communications Study released by Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm, and its sister firm Penn Schoen Berland, a global research-based consultancy.

“With so many senior business leaders predicting a crisis with digital dimensions for their company and admitting their current lack of readiness, there is an urgent need for organizations in Asia to protect themselves by putting into place a modern crisis communications infrastructure,” said Bob Pickard, Burson-Marsteller’s Chief Executive for Asia-Pacific. “Social technology creates the power to make any local crisis explode onto the global stage, so every company needs to know what to do when things go wrong and this can only be achieved through planning and simulation before incidents occur.”

The study also found companies in Asia consider preparing for a crisis difficult because of the need to respond quickly, increased public demand for transparency, and the globalized nature of communications.

“The permeation of digital and social media across all customer and stakeholder segments means organizations must respond quickly, accurately, honestly and consistently across multiple channels,” said Charlie Pownall, Managing Director and Asia-Pacific Lead Digital Strategist. “Despite identifying online and social media as a top crisis communications challenge, most companies in Asia do not monitor their reputations online, nor are prepared to manage crises on the Internet.”

Key findings from the study include:

• 81% of business decision-makers in Asia say new media is playing an increasing role in driving reputation during a crisis
• 70% say the rise of digital communications has increased their company’s vulnerability to crisis
• 66% believe new media, including social media, has significantly increased the costs of a crisis
• 58% believe after a crisis, new media, including social media, has made it easier to recover from a crisis
• Product safety (40%) and online/digital security (35%) are perceived as the greatest risks to reputation
• 75% created their crisis communications plan after experiencing a crisis

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