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21 Mar


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Social Media & Crisis Comm. 101

March 21, 2011 | By | One Comment

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.


  1. Social media over the years have become a popular high-speed source of information. Unlike television networks that deploy reporters in the scene, social media relies on people who are actually caught in the middle of an event or crisis to provide information. They can feed videos or data via internet, and can reach billions of people across the globe in just a matter of minutes or seconds. Social media can be extremely beneficial in gathering information during catastrophe. However, these data could lead to confusion and chaos when people start feeding inaccurate materials. It is essential that people should be responsible enough to think about the outcome of what they are about to unravel. They should be accountable for their actions. Social media should be utilized to bring humanity together especially in crisis like Japan recently had.

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