Social Media & Crisis Comm. 101
From earthquakes to uprisings, events over the last few months have made it clear that social media has become firmly established as a real-time communication tool during crises. But the ability to share those moments generates power for users—and, as they say, with power comes responsibility.
In What Responsibility Do Social Media Users Have During a Crisis?, social media expert Peter Shankman shares his personal account of hearing about the Japanese crisis and going immediately to Facebook to check the status of friends in Tokyo. He writes: “In essence, we’re moving back toward a community model, where news comes not from a stranger on television, but from people we trust because we know them personally.”
He then provides guidelines for social media users in the center of a crisis. But it struck me that these guidelines would also be a useful starting point for companies using social media for PR crisis communications. For example, Peter warns that content is not only posted by the creator—it’s also reposted by others. From the standpoint of crisis communications, if a brand shares inaccurate info on a social network (that’s then re-shared across the web), it has the potential to harm employees, customers, or other stakeholders involved in the crisis—as well as brand credibility.
Does your company have a plan for using social media responsibly during a PR crisis? If not, don’t wait until after the fact—start outlining a social media crisis communication plan now.