What happens when your organization faces hostility within the area it operates? What about conflict within the organization itself? These are the questions I had about real world conflict resolution issues. For answers, I looked to a public relations professional who has dealt with both of these real-life scenarios:
PR pro Julie Brown.
Julie is the director of media relations at the University of Oregon, and she faces conflict management issues like these daily. Whether it’s students who feel angst about the new tutoring center on campus or members of the Eugene community who have environmental issues with the new research building, Julie is the communicator who addresses their concerns.
During our half-hour interview I gleaned some amazing tips on how to manage conflict that I would like to share.
Enter the conversation after you know your audience.
As Kelli Matthews detailed in a recent post, one of the most important values in social media is in its listening capability. The direct connection it provides offers communicators an opportunity to learn from as well as to inform and converse with their specific audience.
Effectively listening to key issues your audience is concerned with and monitoring conversations about your organization or brand gives a perfect way to resolve conflict before it occurs.
Social media tools also allow for the fastest possible way to do so.
In directly communicating with a group or individual, the communicator can find information that is being miscommunicated, rumors that need to be corrected or influential groups that may not have yet been anticipated but are now active.
After listening to key issues and topics around your brand, it is important to remember the golden rule for online communication — transparency.
Have the right experts ready to answer the right questions.
It is the communicator’s job to find the individuals who have the right background knowledge and context to fill in the blanks your audience is concerned with. These experts can then be connected to media inquiries on the issue to provide a thorough explanation on key issues.
Letting an expert chime in on the key issue your audience is talking about not only positions you to resolve conflict but also shows that your organization is truly vested in its audience.
Adding credibility to the organization for which you work is undoubtedly one of the PR practitioners goals, and using tactics built upon transparency is the only route to get there.
If finding an expert is out of your time line, it may be required that you must chime in yourself.
In this case it is vital to remain as upfront and factual as possible in a conflict. This retains transparency in resolving conflicts and leaves the audience without question as to your intent in the situation.