Social media: Did you make a risk assessment of your company's activity?

"Hospital made Snapchat account - leaked confidential patient information." This was a story covered in the largest Norwegian newspaper recently. In the article, we read about the reasons for the hospital to launch a Snapchat-channel, that they had conducted an oral risk analysis and how they got publicly smacked in the face.

Too trigger-happy?

In my previous job as a communications advisor, I often experienced that customers were more than eager to establish a social media presence. That is, not everyone at a given company were equally excited; The so-called enthusiasts were leading the race and got the attention at a time when a lot changed almost overnight. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and similar social media has been a game-changer the same way as the Internet's breakthrough in the mid-90s. Such changes can excite even the most stalwart  of people and make us curious about the possibilities that these channels provide. 

Therefore, we need responsible leaders that ask a few simple, critical questions before the snowball starts rolling:

  • Why should we be present in this channel?
  • Brand-building?
  • Recruiting Purposes?
  • Sales triggering?
  • Support?
  • Preparedness in case we get hacked and need a channel to reach out with information?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining our presence? Do they understand why and how to do this?
  • What to do "when the shit hits the fan"?

Discover a practical approach to contingency planning structure and content –  download our free guide. 

Ask for a risk assessement

The answer to why, who and what could, of course, be complex and include other reasons than mentioned above. Still, it is not too much to ask from those responsible for the brand to make accurate risk assessments as you go. History has shown that it is possible to fall emphatically flat on your  face in social media.

> Read also: This is why your risk management fails

How hard can it be? As we speak, lots of executives are considering the marketing mix for 2017. My assumption is that digital channels, including social media, are heavily present in most of them. Activity is assessed against budget, but how to evaluate activity against risk? Very few leaders have a risk assessment from their marketing department to support their decision. The fact is that many marketers and communicators still struggle to see the big picture when the race for best possible return on investment (ROI) is dominating all processes.

If you consider Snapchat as a new medium in the marketing mix, you should review a few simple scenarios, assess the likelihood that you may experience adverse situations, and if so, what the consequences might be - and remember to use the worst-case scenario as your benchmark.

Threats and vulnerabilities

In your analysis, you should look at potential threats and vulnerabilities. The picture is, of course, different from business to business, but the human factor always constitutes a threat: 

  • Employees may act imprudently in their eagerness to inform. At worst, they could be frustrated about the workplace and act irrationally.
  • The audience are also writers, and they may soon publish highly critical questions on the company wall. Do you have procedures to handle this?
  • Journalists may seek information that can create sensation or attention. By pulling sections out of its original context, and take advantage of persons who have expressed themselves negatively, they can misuse content to their benefit.

As for vulnerabilities, there are obviously various factors that could allow unwanted events to occur:

  • Your private profile/account is regarded as your public account . Make sure it is not a challenge to your reputation.
  • There are no limits to what the public can write on the company wall. So "the whole world" may know about a subject before your business does - unless procedures for monitoring and surveillance are established.
  • Different skills and attitudes of those who publish on behalf of the company. Their tone may vary considerably.

Shall - shall not?

Maybe your analysis shows that the risk of failure is so high that it is hard to value the upside. Please do not manipulate the analysis to end up in the yellow or green zone, but accept a red flag. Unless you are an incurable thrill seeker, keep in mind that the responsibility does not disappear; you are the one to take the blame if things go wrong. 

> Read also: The executives guide to building a culture of preparedness

Returning to the hospital and the Snapchat account: Did they seek risk? Probably not. In the article, they state that they will make a new and more thorough risk analysis. Should they have listened to the feedback from union officials and employees? In hindsight, the answer is evident. When I read that "The Snapper" (the phone on which Snapchat is installed) will circulate between 5,000 employees, I hope that they have a very good culture and awareness for treating sensitive information.

> Read also: Crisis communication: How to strengthen the reputation during a crisis


How to write a contingency plan


By Yngve Resell Mo

Yngve is Chief Communications Officer for One Voice and responsible for both the Norwegian and English language blogs. He graduated in Economics and Management from the Norwegian Business School and was the founder of a communications consultancy assisting companies, both large and small, to achieve their communication goals. Yngve is part of the management team at One Voice with responsibility for designing and directing their communications and marketing strategies. In addition he is responsible for communications during emergencies as part of the of the crisis management team.

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