Prepare With Dark Sites

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    A simple way to defend against crisis

    Dark sites have been around almost as long as the public Web, but their importance has never been more clear than in today’s “instant response” climate. In post on his blog, Blogging Me, Blogging You, social media pro Ed Lee explained why you need to develop dark sites of your own:

    Online, it is vital to maintain a positive and accurate perception of an organization, especially in the face of a crisis, with timely and accurate information that your constituents care about.

    Therefore, it is common for organizations, especially those facing multiple potential issues, to have several dark sites, one for each identified vulnerability or corporate risk. Typically, a dark site contains pre-approved messaging and documents such as news releases, pictures, official statements and other background information, as the specific details will only be added right before their release.

    One of our mantras is, “in the absence of communication, rumor and innuendo fill the gap.” Having dark sites waiting in the wings means that you can be first out with the information that reporters and stakeholders are desperately seeking, which in effect gives you control of your own story. Honestly, you would be surprised at how much heat even a holding statement that acknowledges there’s been a problem and promises information soon can take off of a building crisis.

    Of course, having dark sites for every known possibility won’t help if you don’t keep them updated. You have to respect confidentiality and legal concerns, but share as much information as possible about what occurred and what you’re doing to fix it. This should be coordinated with your social media team if they aren’t directly handling it, as you will be getting questions there, and Twitter, Facebook, and the like can be extremely helpful in funneling information to your stakeholders.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is a writer, publicist and SEO associate for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]