By Dennis Culloton, President & CEO

I’ve recently had to explain to some clients who were, shall we say, of my generation (Old. Born before phones were smart and back when tweets were something the birds did outside) the importance of social media when you are in a crisis.

Social media is better than a smoke alarm.  If you have a disaster developing to your brand, idea or campaign, you’ll likely be hearing about it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media before you get a call from a reporter.   What, my company’s laptops are catching fire? My customers don’t like the fee on top of my other fees?  I’ve been traded?

You can also spread rumors faster.  The other day the blogosphere ran with a lightly-sourced story that the Chicago Cubs (a client of our firm) would play next season at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox.  As I tried to put that story down for hours—there is a greater chance I will be starting at shortstop for the Cubs than there is the North siders will be calling the Cell their home for a season—I checked my Twitter account to have an anonymous Wrigley-monikered micro-blogger urge me to Tweet, once and for all, the denial of the Cubs-to-play-in-the –Cell rumor.  Tweet I did and the story finally died down.

This is a brave new world.  Correction, this is bizarre. A story that shouldn’t have had legs in the first place gets put on TV where social media devotees saw and instantly analyzed it, exaggerated it and blasted it all over the internet.  There, news editors and talk radio producers repeated theTweets and polled reader, viewer and listener reactions.   I could continue to deny the story one-by-one with different media outlets, or tweet the real deal in 140 characters and cut it off at the pass.

Social media crisis management is one of the multi-level approaches we bring to our clients when they are in need.   You need smart messages and you need to deliver those messages on every platform—from the legacy print media;  to Twitter, Facebook and Google+ ; to the next big invention which might be implanting chips in our head to accept information streams sent via Satellite.  (When that happens, perhaps I’ll be able to catch up on Boardwalk Empire episodes I missed.)  A multi-level strategic communication plan which includes the mysterious world of social media will preserve and protect your reputation.