Packing Your Online Emergency Kit

Posted on March 1, 2010

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The world has sustained more than its fair share of shocks in this still-young year.

  • Horrible earthquakes in Haiti and Chile
  • A swelling reversal of fortune and image for Toyota and Tiger
  • More scandals for John Edwards and John Mayer
  • Distraught and endangered senators and congressmen running for the hills instead of the Hill
  • A terrible death on the luge run that threatened to derail the spirit of the Olympics
  • The economy of Greece tumbling toward the sea
  • A highly experienced SeaWorld trainer snatched up by a 12,000-lb.whale
  • Devastating record storms, bringing snow to 49 states, including a ”snowicane” in New England
  • Conan O’Brien nods off at NBC and Jay Leno says night-night to the 10 o’clock spot at NBC

And we’re only 60 days into the year.

It’s not surprising that disasters, scandals, and misfortunes occur. They become surprising only when we are stunned by their magnitude, their unexpected nature or our own disappointment. For many of us, our world revolves around our online activity. Work, socializing, formal and informal communications, entertainment, travel, banking, shopping—most of our lives are grounded in the trembly infrastructure of the Internet and e-mail. So to keep terrible things from happening online to us or our reputation, it pays for us to be prepared and to know what to do when our world starts shaking.

If you want to pack a kit to prepare for online emergencies, here’s what I’d suggest including:

  • A strong set of messages to ensure that your objectives and intentions are communicated in the way you want them to be, rather than how others may position you.
  • Ties to reporters, analysts, bloggers and other influencers that are established long before a potential crisis strikes, to gain you a sympathetic—or at least neutral—ear from those who can build or demolish your future.
  • A policy guide that encourages you to be candid and proactive in communicating all the appropriate and confirmed information about a crisis or potential setback, rather than a shovel to dig a trench in which to hunker down.
  • Pre-positioned resources—everything from backed-up digital files to friends in social networks who will defend your honor, based on past relationships with you.
  • A membership card in Facebook fan pages like “I don’t care about your farm, or your fish, or your park or your mafia!” The more time you spend giving unfamiliar third-party applications access to your Facebook information, the more potential for troublesome intrusions and connections you are likely to spawn.
  • Other people’s shoes, for you to wear for a mile or so while gaining an understanding of how others view you and your statements. If they don’t let you put your best foot forward, you likely need to spend more time communicating with the owners.

You may be alone at your desk while communicating online, but remember that the school principal may be tilting your webcam or a botnet based in China may be using your system as a weapon in Boston. Don’t be paranoid; just be prepared. Avoid links and e-mails that may be questionable and pack your survival gear thoughtfully. Then the next shock, we can hope, will not be devastating to your world.

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