Precocious 9 year old
9 year old Martha Payne writes a blog about school dinners ( which are lunch to kids across the pond in North America). Her blog is NeverSeconds. She has received recent and frequent international media attention because of a rather large mistake by her local council, which put a legal gag on her ability to photo-blog and comment on the food she eats at school.
While there are surely more pertinent matters for councils to discuss, 9 year old girls have never had such power to effect fear and cultural change in a school system. For this reason it is worth looking closer at this story. There are a number of stories around the web on the original story. My interest is to tease out how this story illustrates the contemporary baseline for crisis communicators.
The national conference of the Canadian Public Relations Society, Currents 2012 used the tag line “the marketplace is changing as quickly as the tides. Is your public relations strategy ship-shape?”. The changing tides in PR come from social media and social technology. Social media is affecting the PR profession deeply, changing the process values of public relations, transforming public engagement and ever perhaps the definition of the profession. And since crisis communications is a practice locating within the field of public relations the expanding digital ocean of social platforms and networked services that afford more convenient forms of pocket publishing , digital collaboration and public participation necessitates a next level in public relations. Lacking a social media policy equates with greater expense (responding to immediate crises) and high risk (damaged reputations) for public and private organizations.
Social Media Policy Adoption is PR 3.0
Social media has opened the flow of information for public and private institutions You can see this cultural shift towards more open forms of disclosure in the sequence of events in the Photo Ban story. That is why it is such a vital case study to track and understand. Opting for full disclosure is increasingly becoming a mandatory stance for businesses, NGOs and levels of government across multiple sectors and verticals. At the core of this culture shift is the need for leadership from the C-Suite to promote a culture of social awareness. Having a strong social media policy further ensures that strategic goals and priorities will continue to met moving forward.
The spectacular growth in media attention and fundraising for Mary’s Meals from the hype around Martha’s story is also worth thinking about. Brands are indeed built and destroyed on their ability to respond immediately and authentically to crises.