Issues management is a crucial step in crisis prevention for public relations professionals. Responsible organizations have crisis communication plans in place to make sure they are prepared to communicate during a difficult, potentially hazardous situation. One way for an organization to prevent an emergency from becoming a crisis is to practice effective issues management. This requires an awareness of issues relevant to the organization’s interests and the ability to react to those issues.
The Internet is a great tool to help organizations keep up with issues relevant to their interests. Here are three basic ways to use social media and simple web tools for issues management:
1) Tweetdeck - Tweetdeck is an API for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Basically, it’s software designed to help you organize your social media life. It also has a great feature for conducting a never-ending search for constant search terms. You can create a column on Tweetdeck that gives you real time updates when people post something that matches your pre-set search terms. For instance, I have a column set to search tweets for #socialmedia and #PR. This way, every time someone tweets something that has to do with public relations AND social media, I get an instant notification and an archive of every post with those hashtags.
Organizations can use Tweetdeck’s search feature to monitor issues related to their interests. You can have any number of entries in your search criteria. So, an environmental NGO could have a search for copenhagen and #enviro and #sustainable to find relevant tweets. You want to be pretty specific or you’ll wind up getting a whole lot of messages. A whole lot. End game in this example is that you get an insight on what environmentally concerned citizens are sharing on Twitter and you get it immediately.
2) Google Alerts - Anyone with a Google account can set up alerts to be notified when anything matching certain criteria shows up anywhere on the Internet (you can also set up restrictions to search only within a specific site). Now that Google is searching Twitter updates in real time, you could forego the Tweetdeck and just use Google Alerts, but I like that Tweetdeck’s on-screen notifications pop up on my screen immediately.
You’ll want to be extremely specific on your alerts so as to avoid receiving about six million notifications. You have the option of receiving alerts once a day or as they appear online. Bottom line, using Google Alerts gives you notice if anyone anywhere on the Internet is discussing an issue that matters to you or your organization.
3) Server analytics - With Awstats, I can see how people find my web site on the Internet. I can see what web site they were visiting before coming to mine. I can learn about who is linking to my site, what browser they use, where they live, etc. It’s interesting info for me, indispensable info for an organization. Just last month, I learned that people were finding my blog by searching “Chris Higginbotham throwing a cat in Iran,” (different Chris Higginbotham). I’ve never thrown a cat and I’ve never been to Iran, so I’m a little bummed by that. It’s a bigger deal for a large organization. If an organization finds that people are getting to its page by searching terms that could launch a rumor, they can recognize the trend and act quickly to stem it by using analytics. That’s effective issue and reputation management.
Google Analytics also produces some good stats. Awstats comes with my server space, so I’ve stuck with it. Google Analytics works by signing up for an account and inserting a section of code into your page’s design.
These are just three of the countless ways you can use the Internet as part of issues management. I like these methods because they require little action once you set them up.