Fire Drills: Social Business Crises Simulation

Left: Altimeter’s Research found that social business maturity and crises preparedness are heavily correlated, and on average, most companies are not prepared.

Just as airlines, naval craft, and spacecraft prepare for disaster recovery and risk mitigation, today’s leading companies must do the same with social.

Altimeter has conducted research on this topic read report by Alan Webber on Guarding the Gates, and Social Readiness to obtain industry level insights and pragmatic recommendations, this is our continued coverage on this topic, especially after crises at Progressive this past week. One of my most popular research projects for brand side clients is conducting a readiness assessment of their social business. Using a 50+ checklist we spend time with stakeholders to find out exactly ‘how ready’ are companies for social business. Often, I find that companies do have triage plans in place for everyday workflow –but are woefully unprepared for crises.

We found in our research that companies that are advanced are actively conducting private fire drills for social media crises, both internally and working with third party agencies and software providers. While not an extensive list, feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve a simulation that can help brands not be caught off guard.

Weber Shandwick: Firebell Software and Services

We interviewed Weber for previous research reports to find out they have a dedicated practice to deal with Social Media Crises, which they list on their page. They created a private software tool that can be used by brands and agency partners to conduct a simulated crises even compressing a multi day attack into a few hours. I’ve met the community manager team at an offsite in SF last year and was pleased to see how they were planning and training this service line. Learn more from their PDF on Firebell solution.

Social Simulator: Software and Services

This multi-channel software tool from Social Simulator is a new entrant at 18mos old and being used by London’s Metropolitan Police to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, plus corporates from the oil & gas, defence, pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, retail and transportation sectors. They have a number of custom branded, hour-long scenarios in which they rehearse Terrorist attacks, Reports of malfunctioning prescription medication, and other severe situations like Piracy in the Indian Ocean or various other simulations for brand side clients. In terms of pricing, typical exercises come in at around $10,000 USD, including on-site support from my team and involvement in preparing a realistic crisis scenario. They are open to working with other agencies (for service providers seeking SW like Weber’s)

Say It Social: eLearning and Services

I used Twitter to source names of providers, and also heard from Say It Social, a small team who spans client based in CPG, Retail, Regulated and more.

Although they offer a broad range of services beyond crises, they offer Social Media crisis simulations through their elearning LMS with scoring, testing for enterprise, global teams. Their eLearning page indicates that they: “Use real-life simulation models to test employee social media knowledge & hone employee social media skills”. They also offer a number of auditing tools that look at risk and compliance.

In the end, companies must be prepared for crises as we’ve found the frequency is only increasing. Yet don’t focus on providers because of their software alone; seek providers that have a proven method based on analyzing previous crises, and have learnings both post event and ways to improve the process. I encourage clients to practice for a crises that starts on a Friday evening before a three day weekend when executives are not available, and a product or service has caused harm to a customer and it’s rapidly spreading through social media channels. Like all sophisticated companies, they’re ready for a number of crises and disaster recovery, and now it must extend to social channels.

If you know of a software or service provider focused on this topic, please leave a comment below.

28 Replies to “Fire Drills: Social Business Crises Simulation”

  1. Jeremiah, thank you for the research and preparing this list, we are honored you listed us. We find at SayItSocial that preparedness ‘is’ lacking, and it’s critical for global teams (or any large organization) have escalation simulations on identification, measurement, and response. Great awareness once again Jeremiah!

  2. Jeremiah, we are seeing request’s for our training primarily in PR & Crisis management teams (Ultimately Legal). A tie in to this is the “cross-cultural” challenges (i.e. Sina Weibo, RenRen) and developing crisis simulations for PR teams, all on the same page using social tools that are popular in other countries, this is a BIG challenge, thus to your point training and simulations in these tools are critical too.
    Next we are seeing social (Community manager) training clients, as well as channel partner training, followed by Marketing & lead acquisition departments.
    How about you? Are you seeing a similar pattern?

  3. I often am working closely with the corporate social strategist, who often is involved in discussions with Legal, Risk and Compliance.

    In fact, our last report by Alan Webber on guarding the gates is intended for both audiences in managing risk.

    In one brand instance, compliance reached to me *first* before the social team did to assess risk.

    In a few cases, I’ve heard of social being a “Board Level” discussion in terms of ensuring 1) the brand is ready and keeping up with competitors 2) Ensuring there is lowered risk through guarding the gates.

  4. Interesting Jeremiah. Do you see a growing amount of disconnect with Risk & Compliance and other departments as we do? It sounds like it! Interesting you mention “Board Level”, just this past week a potential brand client reviewed our training scope of work for those 2 reasons. Culture, compliance and privacy were also listed in their concerns. A healthy training program is so essential to ensure lowered risk, but also balanced transparency.

  5. Thanks for the mention of The Social Simulator, Jeremiah. Being UK-based, we’ve had a busy year so far running a range of scenarios around the London 2012 Olympic Games.

    What’s also been interesting is the interest from emergency services as well as corporate and digital communications teams. The Queensland floods of late 2010 highlighted just how important social could be as a proactive channel for well-prepared emergency services, and the disorder we saw here in the UK last year reinforced it. So we’ve been running some interesting exercises to help these teams – who are *really* good at drilling – think through the new social media landscape in which emergencies happen.

  6. Yes, if you’ve ever gone on a cruise ship, it’s mandatory (at least on the US based ones I’ve gone on) that firedrills are practiced at mustering stations before the ship embarks.

    (I could have made that more clear in the post)

  7. Jeremiah — appreciate the attention brought to social crisis simulation, and of course for the FireBell synopsis. Certainly agree that social crises are happening at an increasing rate and many of our clients are responding in kind with interest. While our primary client is usually in communications, our drills strive to incorporate legal, HR, marcom, internal comms, etc. … essentially all the parties that would be affected should something go awry. Everyone has a POV during our drills and they’re all valid. But they’re not always in synch. The goal is to achieve that organizational synchronicity.

  8. Hi Jeremiah,

    At HootSuite our Professional Services division has conducted these types of simulations for customers in energy, media and government. The scenario is built in close coordination with the client to establish and test their workflows while simulating the type of environment they will experience in times of greater communications needs.

    The event usually last a few hours and is done to simulate a multiday event. Afterwards our team makes recommendations, shares best practices and highlights positives while enabling our clients to test out their communications, workflows and processes for when a real event hits.

  9. I would submit that one of the most disastrous outcomes for many companies is when they exercise blatant hypocrisy. I will offer an example of such:

    As I said just hours ago on Twitter and Facebook, “It is my experience that the most offensive social media action is to ignore direct communications while touting the value of engagement.” Yet, I witness this each and every day, and I always find it interesting how few have a good plan to recover from this very real perception of hypocrisy and passive aggression.

  10. Another one is eModeration a Social media agency, also provides
    moderation and community mgmt based in London. 3-hr crises workshop with crises simulation software; Deliverable includes scoring

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