If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time shaking your head (that’s SMH in text speak) these days.
People are making decisions I find hard to understand (outside of basic economic principles of supply and demand). But there are a lot of valuable lessons we can learn in the wake of another episode of “What Were They Thinking? Gas Shortage Edition”
The Gas Shortage Recap
If you were out of pocket last week (for our non-Southern friends, that means “unreachable” or “unavailable”), then you missed the cyber attack on a major pipeline that had everyone on the eastern seaboard and beyond believing the gas apocalypse was coming.
Lines for gas formed. Stations sold out. The President urged station owners not to price gouge. People took to social media to lecture others about being nice while others posted humorous videos of people using take-out bags to carry gas home. Editors note: Funny / not funny. According to Politifact, this is not true but also real. It DID happen, but two years ago, not as part of the recent gas shortage.
It felt like an evacuation for a major hurricane in some areas.
But there’s a lesson in every challenge, right?
And Gasaggedon was no different. There are several learning opportunities you can apply to your chamber of commerce in this situation as well.
Chamber Lessons from the 2021 Gas Shortage
Cybersecurity Should Be a Top Priority
It’s easy to assume that because you are a “small” chamber that no one wants what you have. Your data isn’t that important, right? But it is to somebody. Smaller business are sometimes more desireable targets because they have little to no cybersecurity measures.
This software-created gas shortage, as temporary as it was, also shows us that we can all be victims–big or small, whether or not we were the cyberattack victim directly–and when we are, it is extremely costly.
The pipeline company was hit by ransomware. Ransomware is a cyber attack that blocks access to your data, threatening to wipe it out entirely if you don’t pay their ransom. They essentially hold your system hostage. In this situation, the pipeline ended up paying $5 million to their hackers. But it’s not just this pipeline. Global losses due to cybercrime for 2020 were estimated at $1 trillion (yes, with a T).
While the same hackers that hacked the pipeline will likely not set their sights on your chamber, there are other groups who might.
Chambers can be an easy target because:
- they have member financial data
- they may be slower in installing security updates (Be honest. We all put them off.)
- they may be lax on firewalls
- they use the software most likely to be attacked
- many of us were working at home and our personal systems may not be set up to stop the same threats that our system at work is and now that we’re all coming back into the office…uh-oh
Don’t wait for an attack. Attackers often return to the same company because they know they can be breached.
Make proactive cybersecurity a priority. Adding a little more money in your budget for it now is better than having to explain to your members you got hacked. Because once your data is compromised, they won’t feel secure giving any of it to you in the future.
Crisis Creates the Opportunity for Engaging (and Helpful) Content
Crisis creates opportunity for all kinds of engaging and helpful content.
So many jokes. So little time. I bet this week you saw a lot of funny video and memes popping up about the gas shortage. Maybe you made some of your own. I saw a great one about how we should tell people there’s a job shortage and then everyone will go out and get one.
Funny posts get shares.
Just be careful that you are not being malicious or cruel, or that your tone could be mistaken for such. If you have any pause about whether you should post something or not, skip it. Move on. Find another one that doesn’t concern you as much.
But funny memes and videos aren’t the only ways in which you can capitalize on content during a crisis. The article you’re reading right now is a perfect example. You can take a news story and shape it to your community. Write about it from your community’s perspective, interests, or concerns. You can help disseminate the truth to allay fears. You can also publish helpful resources such as, in this case, which gas stations have gas.
Being a resource for your community will be appreciated–and likely–still get you shares.
One of the problems we faced during this “gas crisis” is that even when the media was telling everyone not to worry there was plenty of gas to be had, people no longer believe them. After a contentious election cycle and multiple misinformation allegations, 59% of people (according to the Edelman Trust Barometer) believe journalists are purposely misleading the audience with information they know to be false.
While this may not be great news for our media, it is an opportunity for chambers. Because guess what is more trusted than media, governments and NGOs? Businesses! And, they are the only entities which are seen as both trusted and ethical.
Chambers are largely trusted within their communities. Time to double-down on your message that chambers are neither government nor charities. And that you represent and support businesses.
You likely have spent a lot of time building that trust and being a good neighbor to your community. When you pass information along, it’s believed and that can put you in a very important position. Help your community by providing that information from a place of trust.
“In It Together” Has Worked
The message during COVID has largely been, we’re in it together. People obviously believe that now. Even those who were not directly affected by the gas crisis felt like they were. They panicked like they were.
The “together” messaging has shaped and realigned how we perceive information. Chamber pros would be well served to keep this in mind going forward.
Plus, with the speed of social media, things that happen in other areas of the county or even outside the country, spread quickly and their concerns become ours.
Tie-ins Can Help Advance the Chamber Mission or Message
While you need to tread lightly with this advice, in the case of non life-threatening issues, you may be able to find some very powerful tie-ins to amplify your message.
For instance, during this gas crisis, talking about shopping local and dining local could’ve been very effective. If you’ve been advocating for more green concepts, encouraging bike riding at this time is also a good correlation.
Just be careful that when you are doing these things that you are not doing it in a heavy-handed way and that you are careful in how you phrase these connections.
Don’t place blame.
Don’t cause rifts in your community. Make helpful suggestions and let people draw their own conclusions such as with the recent labor-shortage.
Becoming a “Sharer” of Truth Protects Your Reputation
It’s easy to see a sensational headline, know it will go viral in the shares, and set it free with very little thought other than the one that comes from the marketing side of the brain that knows the content is a gold mine. But if it proves to be false or worse–harmful, you’ve hurt your credibility. You want to be first with good content and resources but you need to take the time to verify them. That includes fun posts too.
Remember the app that went viral on Facebook a while ago where you could see what you would look like when you were older? People went crazy sharing pictures of their twenty-years-older self. Turns out there were serious questions about the intent behind that app and its data usage.
Before you share anything, crisis-related or otherwise, make sure it comes from a trustworthy source and is validated. You don’t want to be the source of bad information or the cause of a data leak, virus, or cyber infiltration.
Bookmark and refer to fact-checking sites such as these non-partisan fact-checking sites:
Yes, pumping gas into a take-out bag can be funny (if you don’t think about the danger involved) and get a ton of shares, but there are a lot of other things that can come out of this gas crisis too.
For chambers, crisis can be another way of connecting to the community. And this one was mild enough that we could all enjoy some good old-fashioned eye rolling just like we used to do as teenagers.