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Government, Social and Crisis Management

Governments have changed over time and must continue to change as technologies and need evolve.   Government is far more complex with the need to listen and engage across multiple channels.  But the importance increases in times of crisis.  By crisis we mean something like a disaster and not political fallout.  When crisis happen, people turn to the channels they use today. Then those channels like Facebook and Twitter become even more important.  This now becomes a life-and-death scenario versus a loss of customers.

Sandy Hurricane crisis

  • Government tweeted out to not use phone lines.
  • Red Cross used 23 stafers to monitor 2.5 million social posts
  • Facebook mentions of Hurricane Sandy and Frankenstorm increased by 1,000,000%
  • Top five shared terms on Facebook
    • we are ok
    • power
    • damage
    • hope everyone is ok
    • treest
  • Using listening software Red Cross staffers flagged 4,500 messages as needful of followup
    • You need software to understand what needs followup among all the social noise
    • You need tools to automate the follow up and response
  • At it’s peak, instagram users uploaded a related picture once every 10 seconds

Planning for a Crisis

  1. Have a plan
    1. Know what you will mobilize
    2. Have people ready to go. You can’t operationalize this when the crisis hits
  2. Pay attention
    1. Listen.
    2. Understand what’s being said.  That understanding helps you figure out what to respond to and how to respond
  3. Know what is a crisis
    1. this will help you shape a compassionate response
    2. This will help you spur the physical response. this is not just a tweet out we care kind of thing
  4. Acknowledge it as quickly as you can
  5. Let people vent
    1. Don’t try to control the conversation
    2. It’s natural for people to say what’s on their mind in this ara
    3. The venting can help you gain insight
  6. Always keep your cool
  7. Build an area to house information
    1. central place where people can go.  FAQ page, reporting of incidents, key information
  8. Turn a negative into a positive
    1. This is a chance to make a difference
    2. This is a chance to engender good will
    3. You can identify the people who will be of use in the next crisis.  This may include socially active people or it may include responders.

Social Media for Utilities

57 million: customer worldwide used social media to engage with utilities by 2011

624 million number expected to rise by the end of 2017

In 2012 name facebook, twitter, youtube and linked in as their top media to interact with utilities.   (yeah, I’m still trying to figure out the Linkedin piece here)

Utility Use cases.  The premise of the presenter was that a utility must have a social media and listening program in place BEFORE a crisis occurs.  The use cases below help you figure out how to use it now.

  • Customer Service
    • Manage the volume of interactions
    • Determine relevant communications to respond to
    • Track customer satisfaction
    • Respond quickly to customer issue
    • Discover issues, challenges, new ideas
  • Sales and Marketing
    • Identify sales opportunities
    • Capture intentions, interests, and physhcographics

The UK had a huge, long storm that covered all of the country. Here’s the review after the fact by a review board.  Note the consistent use of “some”

  • Some use twitter to respond directly to customers
  • Some provide updates to enquiries or directing customers to specific we pages or contact info
  • Some have 24/7, with dedicated staff to manage the communication
  • Some proactively update to customers
  • Some utilities have arrangements with local councils to automatically re-Tweet their updates, ensuring maximum coverage

The industry was raked over the coals by the media.  It had less to do with reality and more to do with the fact that a few issues and lack of consistent communication across social and other channels led to a perception problem.

UK Department of Energy and Climate Change review

The same government review came up with a set of recommendations

  • Ensure quality of customer contact infomration
  • need to establish a single national number for customer to contact
  • Workshop to share practices to social media engagement
  • Each DNO to develop a social media engagement and resource strategy. Stress test for use during disruptive events

Bottom Line / Summary


  • Real-time sentiment understanding helps you understand how people are feeling.  (good benefit in non-crisis)
  • Informs other communication strategies
  • Makes information more accessible
  • Provides channel choice
  • Tool for mass dissemination
  • Relieves the burden on less agile telephone based services


  • Recognize your baseline perception
    • Understand what level of trust you have with your constiuents
  • Requires a resourcing strategy that balances resources across channels
  • Consistent knowledge base used/demanded
  • User training and stress testing needed to demonstrate state of readiness
  • Must flex as the situation evolves and customer needs develop

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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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