Ask the Crisis Experts: Meet Melissa Agnes

The next stop in our crisis expert series takes us north of the border to Montreal to meet Melissa Agnes.  Melissa is a crisis consultant and speaker. She has worked with national parks, universities, global corporations, as well as public and private companies, helping them develop social media crisis plans. She is a prolific blogger and maintains an active social media presence. Find out more about Melissa’s agency here.  Interesting factoid about Melissa: she is an avid snowboarder. 

Tell us a little about what you do?

There are two sides to what I do. The first is helping companies and organizations understand the risk that social media and the Internet present to their brand, and equipping them with the tools, knowledge and plans to protect and prepare them from said risk. The second part of what I do is online crisis communications/management and online reputation management when a company, organization or personal brand finds themselves under online attack. This part of my job can come in many different forms. From helping a brand monitor, communicate and overcome an online crisis, to helping them pick up the pieces of their online reputation after the damaging impacts of an online crisis.

 What is the most challenging part of your job?

I’d say the most challenging part of my job can be helping team leaders and executives understand that every member of their team is potentially a spokesperson for their brand due to social media, and because of this, they all require at least the basic online crisis communications training, as well as access to certain parts of the brand’s online crisis management plan.

 What are your personal top three social media tools and how do you use them?

Hootsuite and Buffer. My monitoring tools: Twilert, Social Mention, Google Alerts and of course, Radian6 for clients.

Looking back at 2012, what were some of the most alarming trend you saw in how brands used social media in a crisis? 

The most alarming trends I saw made me realize how true a particular stat was from early 2012. The stat: 76% of online crises could have been avoided (stat from The Altimeter Group). This tells us how unprepared the vast majority of companies are when it comes to social media crisis management, and we unfortunately saw this stat hold its truth throughout the year.

From companies:

  • Thinking silence will make the crisis go away
  • Not understanding the value of a sincere apology
  • Not monitoring what’s going on in the online world around them
  • Not learning from other companies’ major social media crisis fails, and thus making the same mistakes over and over again

… And so many more mistakes we repeatedly saw, that I hope to see much less of in 2013.

If you could give one piece of advice to brands on how to use social media well in a crisis, what would that be?

If I can only give one piece of advice it would be to: always focus on building a relationship with your audience. This means before a crisis, during a crisis and post-crisis. By asking yourself “what can I say/do that will help me build/rebuild/strengthen/ the relationship I have with this person/audience?”, you will allow yourself to always focus on positive and relationship-building communications, which will, in-turn, help your brand through all stages of an online crisis.

Many thanks to Melissa for taking time to share with us. I’d like to echo one of Melissa’s great point: every person in your organization is a potential brand spokesperson and should have some kind of online training–a good plan for 2013. What is your favorite takeaway?


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