Page 1

The Spark Freedom Guide to

Online Reputation Management Search Engine Optimization


>> Content Really is King >> Getting to Page One on Search Engine Results >> Helpful Tools

Keeping Your Organization Safe Onlne

>> Protect Your Organization From Hackers >> Common Password Pitfalls >> Data Security

Social Media Monitoring

>> Most Common Platforms >> 4 Tips for Responding on Social Media >> 13 Not-to-Miss Social Media Monitoring Tools

Managing Online Crisis Communications

>> Planning For and Reacting to a Crisis >> Donor Relations During a Crisis >> Crisis Communications Checklist

Creating an Online Communication Policy

>> What to Include >> Employees Online >> Tips to Get Started >> BONUS: Sample Online Communication Policy

How to

Protect Your Organization Online

Contents one

Search Engine Optimization...4


Keeping Your Organization Safe Online...7

three four five

Social Media Monitoring...10 Online Crisis Communications...14 Creating an Online Communication Policy...19

introduction Information today moves at the speed of thought and has put a near-limitless amount of data at our fingertips. We can work globally – right from the office, conduct research without setting foot in a library, and enjoy our favorite shows with the push of a few keystrokes. This digital world provides a wealth of opportunities; however, the prevalence of information comes at a cost, and that price is exposure. A wayward tweet, an insecure file, or a coordinated attack from the outside can damage your brand before you have a chance to respond, costing your organization its credibility and donors. No one is immune and the odds are good that you will suffer a communications crisis at some point in the future. Welcome to the Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management, our first in a series of publications which will provide practical solutions to the challenges faced by nonprofits. Inside you’ll find information to help your organization get online and protected.

About Spark Freedom Spark Freedom is a nonprofit communications advising organization that enables other nonprofits to formulate, target, and release the messages that will best accomplish their organizational objectives. We work with each organization to identify their core messages, aim them at clear target audiences, and release those messages in ways that ensure they find their marks.

Contributors Spark Freedom would like to thank the following for their tireless dedication to the completion of the Guide to Online Reputation Management: Sarah Johnson, Rod Lowman, Lasse Lund, Chip Oglesby, Mike Toguchi, and the State Policy Network.

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Dear Friend: This is not a resource that was written by one person, but rather a collection of resources from many contributors with complementary expertise. Without their generosity, this guide would not be as strong a resource as it is. Getting ahead of potential threats is the key to long-term online reputation preservation. Large organization or small, a well-aligned team that works together is the best resource you can have when protecting your reputation online. This guide will serve as a support to your organization’s marketing, communications, and IT departments. Activities that you or your peers perform to protect your brand should fall within the same parameters as standard communications and creative that you produce. We invite you to use this guide as a resource to spark a move toward reputation and brand protection. In Liberty,

Nicole Williams President, Spark Freedom | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management



Search Engine Optimization Every day, millions of people visit sites like Google to ask questions

and research products. If they are searching for your organization or your services, do you know how to show up at the top of those results? Getting to Page One vastly increases web traffic to your organization’s site; 92 percent of all traffic comes from page one, down to just five percent for page two. Understandably, organizations spend large portions of their marketing dollars vying for those few coveted spots. Before you learn a few tricks of the trade and rise to the top, you must learn how search engines “think.” For early search engines, “relevance” didn’t mean much more than simply finding a page with the right words. For today’s search engine, relevance means so much more. Google’s algorithms rely on 200+ unique signals or clues that make it possible to guess what is really on the searcher’s mind. These signals include things like the terms on websites, the freshness of content, region, and page rank. Search engines have also begun to incorporate social signals (Facebook likes, retweets, +1s, and so on) to inform their search results. Check out the end of this article for links to helpful articles on utilizing social media to boost your organization’s ranking.


of all website traffic comes from the first page of a search engine’s results.

Content really


KING One of the best ways to increase your page rank is to generate great content. Luckily, if you are like most organizations, content generation is not a problem. But are you writing in a way that will boost your page rank? Search engines are getting better and better about filtering out “false signals” for relevance and quality. Follow these tips to get you started:


Publish high-quality content. If you can get your content right, you’ll have a strong foundation for SEO success. Read: How to Write So Google Loves You Read: 6 Ways to Create Content Your Readers Will Share Think about topics, not necessarily just keywords, when considering content creation. What questions does your post or page answer? What problems does it solve?


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Find high-quality partners for linking. Make sure the link is relevant to your topic. Remove bad links from your site.

Analyze performance and adjust accordingly.

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one Keyword Research

Google Adwords Keyword Research: This tool focuses on the big picture, but can be used to drill down to look at niches and provide your team with valuable content.

Ask yourself: Why does my organization exist?

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At the end of the day, what do we want to accomplish?

What are the problems our supporters experience and how does our organization solve that?

With those questions in mind, consider the end user – the person looking for the answers to the very problems your organization solves. What would they type into a search engine?

Question One: Question Two: Question Three:


Types of

Search Queries

"Do" An action query such as “buy cheap plane tickets” or “listen to the radio online.” "Know" An informational query is when a user seeks information, such as the name of a band or the best restaurant in New York City.

Now that you have those down, go to your favorite search engine and type in those questions. How did you do? Did your site appear? You now have a baseline for optimizing your site. In Google Analytics, review the percentage of branded vs. non-branded keywords.

Branded keywords are words like your organization’s name or "Go" the name of your key A navigational query is when a employees. Non-branded user seeks a particular online keywords are things that destination, such as you might not naturally be known for. These are also known as “long-tail keywords.” While there is no standard rule, if 90% of your keyword searches are branded keywords, you definitely have room for improvement with SEO. As discussed, organizations face fierce competition when it comes to a Page One ranking for broad keywords like “marketing consulting.” For help or suggestions, check out the websites below which offer valuable tools for determining a targeted approach:

Google Suggest and Soovle: Google’s predictive search feature is a quick and easy way to get content ideas related to specific keywords. Soovle lets users research potential long-tail keywords from sites beyond Google.

You should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors to your site. They’re the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work. Check out these sites for help generating current and trending content with keywords your supporters are looking for. Topsy: Uncover trending topics and shareable ideas with both the paid and free versions. You can get instant social analysis and real time search. Followerwonk: Like Topsy, you can find great content ideas here, but you can also find key influencers within your social sphere. Quora: The crown jewel of content generation tools.” Users submit questions on the quest for content. They can also answer questions and become resources for articles.

Bounce Rate What is “bounce rate”: A quick number that tells you how many people left your site after one page view. While you’re considering keywords, check out your site’s bounce rate in Google Analytics. Looking at your site average, are there keywords that have a higher bounce rate than average? If so, visit the pages which include those keywords and put yourself in the shoes of the person searching for information. Ask yourself, “What are they trying to accomplish” and “How can we better serve them?” Then rewrite those pages for better, more relevant content. | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management


one On-Page Search Engine Optimization Title Tag: Most search engines use a maximum of 60 characters for the title. URL: Optimize your URLs to include keywords specific to that page or post. Meta Description: Most search engines use a maximum of 160 characters here.

One of the easiest ways to get started with SEO is on-site optimization. This includes optimizing your titles, headlines, and meta descriptions. As you post articles online, talk with your web team or research the best titles and meta descriptions for your articles. This will help increase click-through rates on your articles and the likelihood that they will stand out above the competition. On-page SEO also includes the use of proper coding on your pages. Using HTML5 standards can help your site go a long way. For example, be sure to use proper H1 title tags to identify the headline of an article and not simply something you are emphasizing with big fonts.

Build Traffic With Links Internal linking is highly understandable to search engines. Search engines know to add this to the link graph of the web, to calculate query-independent variables, and follow it to index the contents of the referenced page.

differently than internal links because the search engines consider them as third-party votes. Linking out to other authoritative sites helps search engines rank content better. Sites linking to you helps increase your authority to search engines.

Tips for Future Planning


Pay attention to the basics discussed in this article first: have high-quality content, wellstructured pages, follow all of the best practices for SEO. Make social sharing easy and fun for your audience and optimize your images for social platforms. Read up on Google+ for Authorship, which is an increasingly important ranking factor. Start with this article: “How to Add Google Author Tags to Your Blog for Improved Search Results.”

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External linking is when another site links to you or if you link out to another website. These links pass “link juice,” or ranking power,

Helpful Online Tools to Get You Started Google Analytics If your organization has been running Google Analytics for awhile, you might have some very

valuable historical data at your fingertips. Using this information, you can find keywords people use to find your organization and the content on your site. This free tool is extremely valuable and provides a wealth of information for your organization. It should be installed on every page of your site. If you already have it, build a custom site report that shows you weekly key performance indicators.

Content Management Systems The content management system you use to power your website can make or break your success online. For the best performance, consult with experts on SEO and website architecture. If funds are limited, however, sites like Wordpress offer easily created websites with a vast array of customizable tools. If you’re already on Wordpress, plugins such as the “All in One SEO” pack will let you write specific titles and meta descriptions for your pages. It also gives you the opportunity to write a title for your page or post that might not be as SEO friendly but gets the point across better.

Google Webmaster Claim your website on Google Webmaster. This free tool crawls your site and shows you areas of improvement.

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Are You a Target? Keeping Your Organization Safe Online Security issues are some of the most challenging crises your organization will face. They require evaluating risks at both the personal and company level, and crafting polices that have far-reaching implications for your data and network. Your IT team, web developers, and key stakeholders must work together to develop a comprehensive plan to confront these issues head on. Unfortunately, cyber threats seem to change daily, making the cost of staying ahead of the curve especially burdensome. However, when you consider the potentially devastating effects of inaction, crafting a long-term, scalable strategy doesn’t seem so expensive. Below are some critical issues that you should address when creating a security policy:


Hacker Protection Perhaps the most serious online threat your organization faces is posed by hackers. This is particularly true for those in the public sphere, where “hacktivists” attempt to damage and embarrass opponents. As more and more critical files are stored online, this is the primary battleground for web security. With so many potential vulnerabilities, it may feel difficult to know where to start. Security teams and programmers rattle off risks such as open ports, SQL injections, DoS attacks, and crossscripting that might as well be in a different language. To further your confusion, no universal “best practices” exist and many standards are open to interpretation. However, it’s easy to get started with these simple steps:

>> Protect Your Data Center A locked and secured data center is another important element in security and protection, Restrict access to these locations and monitor for hack attempts. >> Third Party Help You may want to find a vendor to help your organization’s IT and web team with security and certification. Have them review configuration, best practices, and comprehensive testing to find any problems. Acunetix, Aualys, and NTOSpider will scan your website to determine if vulnerabilities exist. These services

generate reports with varying threat levels, enabling your team to make any necessary changes. Unfortunately there is no perfect solution. No software or app, not even the most popular ones, can promise 100% protection. However, taking online security seriously, remaining vigilant, and investing in the protection of your resources are the best defenses.


Secure Passwords It seems like even the most ordinary sites require users to create passwords. With email accounts, social media, and subscription services, it can be frustrating to keep track – especially when you should change them every few months. As frustrating as they are, in some cases your password is the only defense between your sensitive information and hackers.

There is no perfect solution. No software or app, not even the most popular ones, can promise 100% protection.

>> Conduct Security Audits Have your website team conduct a security audit to ensure your code remains secure. They should also check for new system vulnerabilities whether you are using an open source or licensed solution. Have the team schedule regular maintenance including testing, security patches, and other upgrades to keep your environment running smoothly. Audits should be repeated annually. | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management


two >> What Does a Secure Password Look Like?


Backup & Disaster Recovery The loss of your personal or organizational data can be a devastating setback, so it is critical to have a backup policy in place. In assessing backup options, make sure to identify what constitutes your critical data, how frequently it is backed up, how this process is documented, and finally, what procedures are in place to restore the data.

A strong password will have at least eight characters, including a combination numbers, upper- and lower-case letters, and symbols. The composition should not include the user’s name, or standard words like “password” or “admin.” Security experts recommend that passwords be changed frequently, about every 90 days, to ensure protection. This is A backup policy isn’t just a guard against especially important if you have recently data loss; it must also provide data used an unsecure network, like public security. With so much information wireless. transferred over the Internet through the You don’t need a perfect memory. Cloud, it is recommended that you: There are other ways to track all of Have at least 256-bit AES encryption. the complex password combinations Create a redundant solution (check you create. Companies like LastPass with your provider) where additional backups are stored in geographically and 1Password offer secure password dispersed locations. management that can be used across Understand your provider’s privacy platforms and devices. There are also policy. apps like oneSafe, Datavault, and Keeper • Access their methods of available for download. securing your data, such as a Though these suggestions have focused on password that is not shared or transmitted as plain text. user-level protections, it’s also important • Check your privacy from to have an organizational-level policy for hackers, government intrusion, dealing with passwords. Talk over the or any other attempt to breach following questions with your IT team to your systems. ensure your organization is protected. Your IT team or provider can outline • What type of encryption is used to their backup procedures to make sure store passwords? their plans are customized to meet your • Can single sign-on (SSO) be used to needs. There are also solution providers simplify the process while remaining such as CrashPlan, Mozy, and Backblaze secure? that offer Cloud-based services. In order • What is the protocol if an individual to protect your valuable information, or system is compromised? you’ll need a centrally managed solution • Is there any utility in biometric to maintain integrity of the backup service. security options?


AntiVirus & AntiSpam Protection When you mention antivirus software, it usually elicits some serious groaning as people have visions of annoying software sucking up resources on their computers. However, this software plays a critical role in detecting and removing malicious programs like malware, viruses, Trojans, worms, and other nefarious attempts to compromise your network. Antivirus security should be scanning email and other actions, providing real-time protection against dangerous operations. These scans can be automated or scheduled to detect viruses, identify spyware, and quarantine threats. With so much communication handled by email, spam is a pervasive aggravation. You may not be compelled to click a link promising you millions from a Nigerian prince, but the majority of data breaches occur from social engineering attacks. Users will inadvertently give up personal or valuable information, providing access that can lead to worse intrusions. Your antivirus practices are important not only to guard against breaches, but also for your organization’s productivity.


Acceptable Use Policy An acceptable use policy (AUP) is an agreement about how hardware, accounts, and access may be used. These rules govern how your staff utilizes the resources you provide them. Some aspects of an AUP may seem obvious, such as refraining from illegal activity.

Common Password Pitfalls

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Having Only One Password. Sure it’s easier to have one password for all your accounts but this poses a huge risk. If your password is compromised, it can give someone the “keys to the kingdom.” It may be impractical to have a complicated password for every account you manage, but any account with sensitive information should be different. Storing Passwords. Your computer and browser offer many options for storing passwords, which seems appealing when you’re typing them over and over again. But what happens if the device is stolen, or an account is breached? Mobile phone and tablet usage has increased this threat as users look for shortcuts. Handwriting Passwords. As a general rule, it is best if your passwords are not handwritten. If they are, they must be stored in a secure location. And no matter how convenient it may seem, accounts and passwords should not be shared with coworkers.

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But other elements of are more difficult to craft. Are there limitations on website visits, social media activity, or other personal uses? And how does this policy extend to mobile devices? While you may be hesitant to restrict personal activity, you can expose your organization to a variety of problems without an AUP. Without a proper policy in place, your organization could be liable for actions taken by your staff. Start today by crafting a policy that protects your reputation and interests, while fitting your company culture. If expectations are set in the beginning, your staff can adapt while providing you with peace of mind. Transaction Processing & Data Security One of the most inexplicable mistakes made is with the handling of sensitive data. Nothing could be more damaging than having your donor records, credit card information, social security numbers, or other critical data taken. But despite the risks, organizations often do not take the necessary precautions to secure their most


precious information. The most common error is keeping data you shouldn’t have, or having it saved in an insecure manner. Below are some tips for flawless transactions: Destroy forms which contain payment information immediately. Never retain the credit card information. Do not save sensitive data in personal contacts, spreadsheets, or other unsecure databases. If data becomes compromised, your organization’s reputation could be irreparably harmed. Become aware of SSL certificates, PCI-DSS compliant environments, and other measures to ensure you are adhering to industry best practices in data security and storage.


File Sharing In an age of fast-paced communication and distributed environments, file storage is a challenging area. How do you keep all of your files updated, with version control, and in a secure location? And what type of policy is appropriate?

To determine a set of standards, consider: • • • •

What types of files are shared? How are they shared? What kind of risk is involved? Is this process centrally controlled, or is it done on an individual basis?

One consistent problem is having documents shared in different formats with no strategy (example, when documents are stored on company servers, but versions are saved in Dropbox, Google Docs, or other online services). This practice introduces risks to your data integrity if an account is compromised. It’s also inefficient and confusing when there is no consistent process for saving and sharing files. Begin by evaluating your needs, staff sharing process, and present options for in-house and Cloudbased storage. By being proactive with your organization’s security, and creating a comprehensive plan to confront the issues discussed here head-on, you can mitigate potentially devastating and expensive consequences. | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management



Social Media Monitoring Are your ears burning? Make no mistake about it, your friends – and foes – are talking about you online. The online social sphere can be intimidating, and it can take a lot of work to ensure your organization is aware of online discussions and is well-represented. By using the tools and tips included in this chapter, you will be well on your way to successfully taking control and harnessing the power of social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of adults online use social networking sites and, according to the IACP Center for Social Media, social media accounts for one in every six minutes spent online. With this in mind, there are only two questions that you need to answer: What are people saying about you online? And who is driving the conversation? Monitoring social media has become an integral part of an organization’s business intelligence, and is used to identify, predict, and respond to consumer behavior. Large corporations often have entire teams dedicated to monitoring and responding to what is being said about them online. While nonprofits likely cannot afford to match such large-scale efforts, there are ways to be aware of an online reputation even on a limited budget. This chapter will help you discover what people currently say about your nonprofit, learn how to respond appropriately, and ultimately drive the online conversation about your organization.

Platforms The number of social media websites available can be daunting; Wikipedia’s entry about the largest and most popular sites lists nearly 200. However, if you look at the usage of each, priority platforms are rapidly revealed. Nonprofits must actively monitor and engage with users on “The Big Three” 10

Discover what people currently say about your nonprofit, learn how to respond appropriately, and ultimately drive the online conversation about your organization. social platforms and decide if there are others that would provide value.

The Big Three The Big Three reach more people than any other social network by far. You need to engage users on these social networking platforms by both listening and talking. Think of social media as a giant cocktail party. You wouldn’t go to a party and just listen to conversations off in the corner; nor would you just talk at people without a little give and take. >> Facebook Currently the undisputed king of social media websites, the site is used by 71% of online adults and gets five new profile signups every second – more than the world birth rate (4½ children per second). The site boasts over one billion users and 40 percent of American users log in every day. >> Twitter Twitter is fundamentally different from other social networks in that it focuses on what is happening at this very moment. Stories can break, find an audience, and spread across the web like wildfire before you’ve even had your morning coffee. Organizations must be nimble enough to track what’s being said about them at any time – and be ready to respond. >> LinkedIn For a long time, many regarded LinkedIn as Facebook’s kid brother. Over the years, the social network quietly built a strong brand with a more serious approach. Not only does LinkedIn serve as a great recruiting ground, but it is also a place to network and establish identity. | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management

Other Major Social Networks While not as ubiquitous as the Big Three, there are plenty of other major social networks used by millions of people on a daily basis, and are worth considering if your organization has the resources and manpower. The one caveat is that these networks often reach niche, rather than mainstream, audiences. >> Pinterest Pinterest focuses on visuals instead of text, offering its users the ability to “pin” their favorite images onto online “pinboards.” The thing that separates Pinterest from the rest of the pack is that 80% of their members are female. >> Instagram Instagram is a photo-centric social network that has gained immense popularity in recent years. Their fanbase grew so quickly that Facebook purchased them for $1 billion back in 2012. They popularized the practice of overlaying photos with filters, helping even the most amateur photographer’s photos look impressive.

Social Media Today highlighted a great example of a brand that found a way to be smart, snarky, and responsive on social media: “With its ear to the ground listening for social chatter about its brand, SmartCar USA picked up on this tweet: ‘Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it.’ SmartCar USA responded quickly with a clever infographic showing how many bird droppings it would actually take to total one of their cars (4.5 million pigeon droppings, in case you need to know). As a result of its efforts, SmartCar USA got 576 retweets and 398 favorites, all because someone on the social media team was tuned in to brand chatter.”

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three Tips for Responding

on Social Media

Be Memorable. Find a unique way to say something, even if it’s just standard information or a factual point. By doing the unexpected your followers will reward you with their affection, and your opponents will be caught off guard. Choose Your Tone. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Decide what personality you want to establish online, and make sure it aligns with the rest of your brand identity, and then stick to it. Do not get angry. By showing that you’re listening, you’ll win respect and support from others. Be Authentic. People on social media look for authenticity and can sense insincerity from a mile away. Keep that in mind as you engage online. Rather than turning on the PR spin machine, find a way to craft a reply that shows you recognize users as people to whom you can relate. People are on social media because they are looking to make connections with others, even the person behind the brand. Act Quickly. The beauty of social media is that it is real time. You can snub out misconceptions and fix problems instantly through a quick, smart reply. Never expect things to go away. Blog posts and forum comments linger in search engine results forever, so you need to make sure your viewpoint is there as well.



4 SmartCar USA’s infographic

Engaging In The Conversation If you’ve done a good job of listening online, you will have discovered a plethora of opportunities to engage with people – supporters, detractors, and even some who are neutral but interested. All of these present the chance to further your mission and increase your brand awareness. Remember, these interactions are public and permanent, so make sure you strike the right tone and have your facts in line. If you succeed in making the right impression, a single interaction can spread through the social network, garnering you even more followers and influence. | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management



Measuring for Success Before you start tracking results, determine your measurable outcomes, or key performance indicators (KPIs). These benchmarks will help you determine whether your social media marketing efforts are successful. Below are the most popular measurements along with 13 Not-To-Miss Social Media Monitoring Tools.

What to Measure >> Reach. Measures the number of fans, followers, blog subscribers, and other statistics to gauge the size of your community. >> Engagement. Measures retweets, comments, average time on site, bounce rate, clicks, video views, white paper downloads, and anything else that requires the user to engage. >> Competitive Data. Measures your organization’s popularity online compared to your competition. Or measure the number of times your competitors are mentioned. >> Sentiment. Measures the numbers of mentions with positive or negative sentiment. >> Conversions. Measures social media referral traffic, aided by social media efforts, to the event registrants or donor pages.


Not-To-Miss Social Media Monitoring Tools

Feeling a little overwhelmed? It’s definitely understandable. There are so many types of social networks, users, and conversations that must be monitored in order to protect your brand, and listening to what your supporters and critics say about you online is key to getting great results from your social media campaigns. Luckily, there are many tools available, offering countless ways to analyze, measure, display, and create reports about your social efforts. Below are 13 tools to help make sense of the noise. There is quite a bit of overlap in the services provided by these monitoring tools. Therefore, it is important to try out various tools and find those that work best for your organization’s needs and preferences. 12


HootSuite. HootSuite offers a command center where you can control many of your social media accounts. Quickly respond, schedule posts, set up searches for hashtags, and get an overview of relevant online discussions. You can also schedule weekly analytics reports and delegate tasks across your team.



Klout. A good indicator of influence on several platforms.

Social Mention. Extremely popular among social enthusiasts. Social Mention monitors over one hundred social media sites. It analyzes depth and influence in four categories: Strength, Sentiment, Passion, and Reach.


Addictomatic. Useful when seeking an overall view of your brand. Use Addictomatic to keep an eye on industry news and brand reputation.


HowSocialble. Measures your social media presence and your competitors’ by tracking 12 social sites for free (such as Tumblr and WordPress) and 24 more (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) with a pro account. HowSocialable breaks down scores for your different platforms, allowing you to gauge which ones work best for you.


Meltwater Icerocket. Offers blog, Twitter, and Facebook monitoring, as well as graphs you can customize. Extremely useful for keeping a watchful eye on blogger activity (there are 200 million blogs in their database) and they also provide the possibility of finding the latest trend terms related to your search. Use the information from the reports to offer users more targeted and valuable content.


Reachli. Posting videos and images is quickly becoming the go-to way to increase engagement for many businesses. Reachli helps you measure those posts and offers | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management

features to help measure effectiveness.


Google Analytics Social Reports. Conveniently located in your Google Analytics platform, Social Reports measures how social traffic is directly impacting your conversions.


Topsy. Be a fly on the wall with this real-time social search engine. Sort through social activity related to your industry, brand, and community.


Sprout Social. A useful, affordable, and easy-to-navigate social monitoring service that simplifies the tracking and reporting of online chatter. Get custom reports based on keywords, track the growth and engagement of your social platforms, and set up alerts based on certain interactions. They offer a discount to nonprofits. All you have to do is ask.


FollowerWonk. This analytics service, specifically for Twitter, allows you to understand and sort your followers. The site helps you learn when your influential followers are most active so that you can select the best times to engage.


Brand Monitor. Become an active social media participant by finding where conversations relevant to your brand are taking place, tracking your brand online, learning trending keywords, and measuring engagement. Use the information from the reports to offer users more targeted and valuable content.

13 Makes managing conversations on social networks more simple. This service provides valuable insights into the people you are engaging with on social media and also helps track whether or not you’ve responded.


Managing Online

Crisis Communications


oday more than ever before, organizations must have an online crisis communications plan in place for the inevitable day when an online attack occurs, an employee makes a public gaffe, or any other public relations crisis ensues. It is crucial to avoid the tendency to be defensive and remain as open and transparent as possible.

Before a Crisis Know Your Enemy. Think strategically by examining your key opposition and their influential allies. Know what they love and will not give up. Use their strength as your leverage. Anticipate

where they will attack and prepare stories in advance about the beneficiaries of your product, service, or policy as a contrast to your opposition’s assertions. Identify a Crisis Communications Team (CCT). These people are authorized to identify what actions should be taken and make swift decisions. At a minimum, the CCT should include the CEO and the most senior communications or marketing employee. In addition, include an attorney familiar with your organization on the CCT and involve them depending on the situation. If warranted, a communications consultant with expertise in crisis

communications strategies and implementation may be needed. If you don’t have a relationship with a public relations professional, start building one now so you don’t have to find one in the middle of a crisis. Determine Who Should be Notified. Identify any individuals inside or outside your organization who need to be notified of any pending crisis, and develop a contact list for this purpose. Your organization’s board will likely be high on this list. It’s a good rule of thumb to use another method of communication besides your organization’s email system, in case it is compromised.

Successful Crisis Communications • Protects the integrity, reputation, and credibility of the organization – the brand, purpose, people, and products or services. • Uses the situation to your advantage in messaging and fundraising. • Manages communications by having clearly defined organizational channels to lessen negative repercussions for the organization. • Maintains a reputation of leadership and transparency. 14 | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management

four Make sure your board understands your plan. Ensure they know to limit emails among themselves and to your organization, and that they should not make statements that can be obtained by media or opposition. Establish Key Messages. Familiarize your spokespersons with your organization’s essential branding messages ahead of time. At the time of crisis, messages specific to the situation will be created by the CCT. Develop Pre-approved Statements. Draft responses for common media inquiries that are pre-approved by the CEO and the board of directors as necessary. In addition, develop a list of questions and answers that pertain to key points your organization would want to make. Determine Your Key Allies. Key allies should be considered as third parties who can come to the defense of your organization in the media. Identify any who should be advised of any crisis, press release, or significant development, and organize their contact information in your database. Inform them that they should only take action if requested to do so by your organization, and should direct any media inquiries to your organization’s media contact. Keep an Opponent Media List. Compile a list and key information on any media, bloggers, or groups who might initiate unfavorable coverage. Ensure that their information is kept up-to-date. Establish a means for responding to all media inquiries; post your Director of Communications’ contact information on your website.

with the media. Monitor the Media. Set up an interactive media monitoring service that provides daily monitoring of your organization and rates stories as either “favorable/neutral/ unfavorable.” Be sure to think of keywords such as your organization’s name and acronym, project names, and staff member names which might trigger either positive or negative media coverage. Review these keywords and phrases periodically and update based on current projects and situations. Refer to Chapter Three on “Social Media Monitoring” for more specific information on online tools and methods.

During a Crisis >> Strive to win, not just to survive. Aim to end the crisis stronger than before. >> Identify what you need to protect or correct. Let everything else go. >> Ensure that only the designated spokesperson or the CCT speaks on the organization’s behalf. >> Cooperate with the media whenever possible. >> Turn a negative to your advantage by reinforcing positive associations. Focus on the shared goals and mutual outcomes of your organization and the public.

>> Do not try to negotiate with bullies. Make them back down. >> Unless it is impossible, do not restate/ underscore the opposition’s allegations or assertions. Reinforce the message you want to deliver. >> Stay on message and use humor appropriately. Do not patronize. Remember, the longer you talk, the more you open yourself up for mistakes and untargeted messages. >> “No comment” is never acceptable. If an answer is unknown or cannot be immediately answered, tell the inquirer you will get back with him/her, and do so. If the question cannot be answered due to a policy (such as sharing personnel information, donor names, etc.) let the inquirer know that. Media Releases >> After appropriate approvals, the media release should be posted on the organization website and distributed to staff and closely allied groups. >> The prepared written statement should guide all media interviews. >> If not conducted in a neutral venue, media access to organization facilities should be supervised. Know ahead of time who the journalists are and, to the extent possible, what they plan to cover.

Get Media Training. Dealing with the media can be difficult, especially in a crisis situation. Staff members likely to be designated spokespersons should be trained in crisis communications techniques and best practices. It is key to identify and train them before a situation arises. Your organization’s CEO, director of communications, and any subject experts should be trained to speak | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management


four values, long-term interests, and agendas; showcase reliability, stability, and innovation. Don’t Be Silent. Nothing raises more doubt than an organization that goes dark when under fire; a confident voice and message consistency conveys stability and reliability. The last thing you want is donors knocking at the door wanting to know what is going on. Be proactive with an explanation of the situation.

>> Be sure the area into which the media are invited does not have sensitive information such as reports, personnel information, or other papers visually available. Notify Partners and Key Groups >> Keep them in the loop as the situation develops. (NOTE: Some of these parties may have been contacted prior to your contacting the media.) Track All Media Inquiries >> Add all media inquiries’ contact information, to whom they were referred, and the nature of their questions to your database. >> Continually update your media monitoring service to capture coverage related to this crisis scenario.

After a Crisis Secure Loose Ends >> The CCT should ensure that suitable communications outlining the resolution of the crisis are made to appropriate key audiences. >> If changed, voicemails and website should be updated. >> Double check all media contacts to ensure each one has been responded to 16

and any new names have been added to your organization’s media contact list. Review Crisis Communications Team. Re-convene the CCT to evaluate responses, actions, what worked well, what didn’t work well, and what needs improvement. If appropriate, solicit your board of directors’ observations. Consider the crisis: are there other issues that might arise that will need positions and responses developed? Assess Media Coverage. Review the media attention garnered from the crisis. Check for message consistency and accuracy in coverage. Are there messages that might need further clarification? File and Update. File notes, clips, talking points, communication, etc. into a folder. Revise the Crisis Communications Plan if necessary.

Donor Relations During an Crisis If your organization is in the middle of a crisis, talk about it! Communicate thoughtfully during this period. Take the pulse of your base: how will the current situation impact your base and prospects? Craft your message with your donors in mind. Emphasize shared | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management

Stay Positive. Don’t harp on the negative but do acknowledge the realities at hand. Emphasize the ways in which you’re proactively responding to the crisis. Your nonprofit’s ability to adapt and its resilience are real strengths, and likely to be valued in times like these. Build Relationships. Call a handful of your top donors and tell them in person about the attack. Thank them for their support which has made it possible for you to be effective enough to warrant an attack. Depending on the circumstances, individual emails from your CEO’s email account might be appropriate here, but if at all possible, pick up the phone. Email Donors. Send a general message that might read like this: “We were attacked last night because, like you, we believe government should not pick winners and losers when it comes to who gets a job. Here’s a copy/link to the article. Thank you for your past support. It allowed us to get to this place where our freedom reforms have angered Big Government advocates.” >> To improve the open rate, consider embedding a brief video (60 seconds or less) from the senior leader that presents the situation honestly and with an inspirational outcome that requires their support. A decent cell phone video will work. Too much polish will backfire. >> In addition to sending the link to the article, highlight excerpts in the body of the email.

four Re-craft Your Message. Immediately take any automated outreach efforts offline until you have had time to review them with the current crisis in mind. >> Review your communications. Reshape your messaging, tone, marketing and fundraising communications, and campaign strategies according to the crisis. When your organization does so, it shows that you are in touch, and care about, the greater world and your network. When you don’t, you risk being perceived as out of touch. >> Be sensitive to inappropriate pitches. Test your campaigns on your advisory board. There is no better resource than an informal group of members of your base available when needed. >> Make your case. Demonstrate your nonprofit’s impact with tangible, easy-toconnect-with profiles, photos, and video. Your Organization’s Website. The website should be fresh and updated. This is where people will go for information about your organization and your take on the situation.

Crisis Communications Checklist Before Going Public Determine who will lead the CCT. This person will be responsible for ensuring all tasks are completed (most likely the director of communications). Determine who will answer all media and other inquiries (most likely the CEO or director of communications). Assess the situation to determine the facts. Determine the appropriate response/action. Create a plan of action for internal and external communications. Develop factual, detailed messages that reflect the status of the crisis, your organization’s response, and if possible, proactive steps to resolve the situation. Prepare talking points and provide a script for the receptionist receiving incoming calls. Determine if a press release, web, and/or voicemail updates are necessary. Assess what resources are necessary to manage the crisis (e.g., cellphone availability, press conference needs, on-location resources like signs, lectern, visuals, etc.). Appoint staff: Official spokesperson and media manager: Keep the chairman of the board informed: Contact key allies: Record crisis details, actions taken, external responses, and resolution:

Going Public Update website and organization voicemail, if needed. Begin placing telephone calls to critical internal audiences, including staff, board of directors, and/or key external audiences (e.g. key partners, top donors, etc.). Begin media and other external audience outreach, use press releases if appropriate. Monitor and update social media platforms to address comments. Evaluate message effectiveness as the situation progresses. Implement methods to keep key audiences updated. Distribute post-crisis communications to all key audiences. Many of the same principles used in broad crisis management planning apply for online communications. For the sake of this resource, we’ve focused the content to online crisis communications. If your organization is looking to boost its readiness for any kind of crisis, the State Policy Network ( has a robust resource available to you that served as the source for this chapter. You can request a copy by contacting Rebecca Phillips at

Notes | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management



Creating An

Online Communication Policy


are the days when corporate communications came only from on high. Your customers and the media will reach out to your employees by any and all methods available to them. To assuage your fears of poorly worded emails, negative sound bites, or Twitter gaffes, have your company craft a clearly written communications policy that sets forth what is, and what is not, appropriate for the company’s communications behavior. Your organization’s communication policy should include policies written for all external communications such as: >> Printed materials such as newsletters, articles, and brochures. >> Electronic materials such as email, postings to websites, and social media sites. >> Media relations such as requests for interviews, news releases, and media inquiries. By building a solid foundation first (always keeping transparency in mind), you are most likely to see a greater benefit from across-the-board engagement in communications. For the purposes of the Guide to Online Reputation Management, this section’s focus is limited to policies and guidelines for online communications. Please contact us for our Guide to Communication Policies. Before you start creating an online communication policy, you must first define what your organization will include.

Online Communications: Any website or forum that allows for open communication on the Internet. >> Websites (including company and personal) >> Social Networking Sites (LinkedIn, Facebook) >> Micro-blogging Sites (Twitter) >> Blogs (including company and personal blogs) >> Online Encyclopedias (Wikipedia) >> Video and photo-sharing websites (YouTube; Flickr)

Employee Advocates Online Capitalize on strength in numbers and get away from the confines of corporate speak. “Real people” tend to get higher engagement than brands because their content doesn’t feel like an advertisement, even if an appeal is involved. In addition, your employees probably have

established networks of people who are sympathetic to your cause (and employees are much more credible in their circles than your message will be), so having them share brand messages through their personal social media accounts is a no-brainer. Because these messages blur the lines between personal voice and institutional voice, many organizations still fear employee engagement on social media outlets. However, social media is safe for work, and utilizing your employees as brand advocates on social channels will improve your brand awareness and reputation. However, before you cut them loose, have your corporate communications policy in place to give them the support to deal with inevitable mistakes.


Build your organization’s audience.

>> Encourage employees to identify your organization in their personal social media profiles (LinkedIn for starters, the Facebook “About” sections, and Twitter bios). >> Ask board members to identify their roles on LinkedIn, too. There’s an entire profile section dedicated to highlighting volunteer experience and supported causes, in addition to individual positions.


While it’s a great idea to send out posting ideas to employees, not everything that your employees post on their personal accounts has to come from | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management


five your marketing department. Encourage them to create and share their own content, even if it’s as simple as a photograph from an event. The more original content employees create, the better – it’s the genuine stuff that really resonates.


Banning the use of social media does not increase productivity, nor does it prevent online debacles. Harness your employees’ desire to interact online to the company’s advantage by allowing them to stay connected and promote activities that benefit the company.


If your employees choose to post content about work-related topics, have them disclose their relationship with your organization before doing so.

Online Communication POlicies for Corporate Accounts Preparing your employees to be smart online won’t stop a disaster from happening (we’re looking at you, US Airways) but you can limit the amount of damage that ensues by having an online communication policy with guidelines in place. So, while this does not guarantee the safety of your brand online, it does give greater control over the image that is portrayed by discouraging employees from posting content deemed inappropriate by the organization. Many of the designated users of social media at your organization will think they know how to communicate online; however, tweeting about the lunch they had today and standing at the helm of your organization’s online presence are two very different things. Creating a social media policy should reduce your anxiety and give employees the training, content, and tools they need to be socially savvy and professional. Strict rules aren’t required; instead, provide ground rules so that everyone understands what is appropriate and what will have you trending for the wrong reasons. Support Participation Responding to comments on your corporate blog should be a standard practice of any employee actively



blogging or participating in social media on behalf of your company. Make sure those sources are encouraged to participate in other industry forums.

Don’t let perfection get in the way of the good. Implement your policy with the understanding that changes will need to be made as time goes on. The online world changes constantly and your online communications policy should reflect that nature. View this as a living document, update it regularly or as new policy needs come to light. Take into account technology changes as well as the changes in your communication objectives.

Don’t leave fake reviews or comments As the CEO of Whole Foods and employees at Reverb Communications learned, don’t use a pseudonym to post negative comments about a competitor or leave fake positive reviews for clients on iTunes.


Tips to Get Started


Determine who will be responsible for managing your organization’s social media policy. The individual or department chosen to oversee the policy will be responsible for creating, implementing, and enforcing the policy and should understand the organization’s goals and motivations for creating it.


Help employees understand the role social media plays in the company’s communication’s strategic mission by explaining your communication goals. >> Define your messaging and marketing objectives clearly, avoiding all vagueness. Employees who are well-informed are more likely to support the firm’s hardearned reputation.


Address what should or shouldn’t be discussed taking into special consideration trade secrets, as well as personnel and legal issues. At the same time, transparency is vitally important for your brand online; employees should be encouraged to be authentic.


Empower, but don’t abandon. It’s easy to let your personal feelings dominate the conversation – sometimes to the detriment of a company’s carefully created brand strategy. Therefore, it’s essential to give ultimate authority for managing social media initiatives to a single point of contact, be it a designated individual or a corporate department such as marketing, public relations, or human resources.




BE ACCURATE Your network depends on you to tell the truth. Have fun, but make sure any news you report has been verified. If you’re retweeting, sharing, or otherwise linking to someone else’s content, give him/her credit. BE RELEVANT: Post content that invites responses – then stay engaged. Find others who have shared interests, cite them, and ask them questions. BE CONSIDERATE Encourage healthy debate but don’t inflame others. BE TRANSPARENT If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. BE HUMAN The social web is like a dinner party. Be yourself and have good manners. BE COMPASSIONATE Even though many connections on the social web are with people you might never meet in person, be a friend. American Red Cross, Online Communications Guidelines | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management


Sample Text for Your Online Communication Policy Define the parameters of your policy. Refer to our list on Page 19 for a reference.

1. Stop. Think. You cannot always be sure who will view or share the information that is posted online. Before posting, remember you are responsible for what you post and any conduct that negatively impacts the job performance of you and/or your coworkers, or affects donors, colleagues, or associates of [ORGANIZATION] may result in corrective action, including termination. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss, don’t post it, even if it’s on your personal account. 2. Personal Use of Social Media at Work. Limit the use of social media on personal accounts during working hours or on equipment provided by [ORGANIZATION] unless such use is work-related or authorized by a supervisor. Employees should not use their [ORGANIZATION] email addresses to register on social networks, blogs, or other websites for personal use. 3. Reserve the Right to Monitor. Where the law permits, [ORGANIZATION] reserves the right to monitor the use of online communications, and will take action when such use is considered inappropriate or unlawful. [ORGANIZATION] will not interfere with your rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. 4. Employees are not Official Spokespersons. Never represent yourself as an official spokesperson of [ORGANIZATION] unless you have explicitly been granted that privilege. When expressing your personal opinions online, make your relationship with [ORGANIZATION] clear. 5. Posting of Confidential Information. Aim to protect [ORGANIZATION]’s private, confidential, and proprietary information. 6. Be Mindful of Copyright and Intellectual Property Laws. Be careful to comply with all copyright, trademark, and intellectual property laws. 7. Be Ethical. Online behavior should be consistent with [ORGANIZATION]’s policies and practices with respect to ethics, confidential information, discrimination, and harassment. Do not engage in any online conduct that would not be appropriate in the workplace (this includes derogatory, discriminating or stereotypical remarks, threats, intimidation, harassment, insults, slander, defamation, or pornography). 8. Demonstrate Respect. When posting anything online, always be fair, courteous, and respectful to others. Demonstrate respect for others’ privacy. Do not use statements, photographs, video, or audio that may be construed as malicious, obscene, threatening, harassing, or abusive. Do not engage in offensive postings that may create a hostile and abusive work environment based on race, sex, religion, or any other protected class. 9. Be Forthright. Be accurate and honest and quickly correct any mistakes. Never post information which is known to be false about [ORGANIZATION] or any coworkers, clients, customers, colleagues, or other individuals who are associated with [ORGANIZATION]. 10. Business-Related Social Media Accounts. All business related social media accounts and related postings maintained by employees for marketing and/or networking purposes remain [ORGANIZATION] property. All information related to the accounts will be returned to [ORGANIZATION] at the end of employment. 11. Retaliation Prohibited. [ORGANIZATION] prohibits taking negative action against any employee for reporting a possible violation of this social media policy or cooperating in related investigations. Any employee who retaliates against any employee for policy violations or cooperating in investigations can be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. 12. Legal Liability. Employees can be legally liable for their posts online.

Additional Resources: • Why reinvent the wheel when plenty of companies have been generous enough to share their policies with you? Check out Social Media Governance for sample policies from organizations around the world and in seemingly countless industries. Incorporate or adapt the rules you want – and discard what you don’t. • Dynamic Signal provides a wealth of information on social media through their website, blog, and email newsletters. | Spark Freedom Guide to Online Reputation Management


Spark Freedom: Guide to Online Reputation Management  
Spark Freedom: Guide to Online Reputation Management