Monsanto: Getting social to the crisis communication table — Live from Member Meeting 39

Coverage of this session by Courtney Graham of Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

1:30 —'s Kayal Rajendran introduces Monsanto's Social Media Manager, Heather McClurg, and Digital Content Strategy Lead, Nick Weber.

1:31 — Nick: Monsanto has its share of crisis. Social is usually the first team that sees a crisis happening online.

1:32 — Nick: Online process during a crisis was inefficient and a new process took shape in 2015 with the help of leadership. We wanted to get better and faster at this process.

1:33 — Nick: New leadership formulated a plan on paper and evangelized it through multiple teams.

  • Response Priority framework: High, Medium, Low risk
  • One page step-by-step process

1:34 — The process:

  • Starts with social listening
  • Small working group
  • Conference call
  • Decision made
  • Email sent to all with rationale
  • Large approval and action taken

1:35 — Implemented a newsroom:

  • One integrated digital newsroom
  • Daily meeting at 9:30 am
  • Reps from all communications areas
  • Discuss content calendar, trending conversations, and opportunistic content
  • Items to watch out for / on the radar

1:37 — Heather — We learned through a newsroom meeting that Neil Young had a new album out called, “The Monsanto Years.” We had one of our active leaders on social write a blog post to Neil.

1:38 — Heather: Then Young posts a farmer documentary “Seeding Fear.” We posted on our website information disproving the false claims made in the documentary.

1:41 — Heather went over another crisis example related to Prop 65 in California. The proposition addresses a certain chemical in Monsanto-made Roundup.

1:42 — Heather: We posted long form text on our Facebook page in response to the proposition and it helped tone the conversation down around the issue online. In another example, we were able to stop a rumor before it became a myth.

1:44 — Heather: We've been listening on social to buzz around genetically engineered mosquitos and the Zika virus. We put the new crisis process in place, and decided to go with a long form post on our Facebook page to clear up facts. This post had great engagement and shares.

The post was picked up by other media outlets like HuffPost and Fortune and helped turn around the conversation.

1:46 — Heather: We found an opportunity with an Onion article about killer tomatoes. We had fun with the article and posted a picture of our staff being under attack from these tomatoes. It was a moment for us to have fun and show a more human side to us and the brand.



Q: Who had to see the tomato post before you did that?

A: Luckily not many, we pitched it and got approval. We kind of just did it so we could show a more human side and have some fun. We've been able to take some risks and built credibility because of it. We've also been able to educate legal more about social so we can take those risks.

Q: Can you speak more about the listening process and how it flows?

A: We have a team that has all the tools to monitor the conversation and connectors for issues we want to monitor. It's a combination of the tools and the human side. We also have the newsroom meeting to go over as a team what we're hearing. We also have employees sharing and being ambassadors for the brand.

Q: Do you use other branded channels to help in this effort?

A: Not really. It's mostly from our corporate channel. We'd like to have better connectivity between those channels and brands.