Maier & Warner Company E-blast: Social Media’s Effect on Crisis Communication

How Social Media Has Changed Crisis Communication

July 2011

Traditional crisis communication consists of gathering the company’s response, sending it to the media and thus informing the public. However, with the explosion of social media, a crisis is no longer able to be handled by a timely calculated statement. As soon as a crisis strikes, people are blogging, tweeting, updating Facebook statuses, etc. Therefore, a company’s response is not the only information being released. Whether it is negative commentary or false accusations, the public now plays a major role in deciding how a crisis plays out. Companies are now merely participants in crisis discussions rather than controllers of the information.

While it may sound like social media is hurting companies in a crisis, companies can use social media to their advantage. A company’s response in a crisis may not be the first thing the public hears, but it should be the most accurate, truthful and complete. It is very important that a company listens to what is being said on social media outlets and responds directly. This can be managed by monitoring tools like Google alerts or tweetbeeps (a free site that tracks Twitter mentions of your company name, or any other keyword).   Social media presents a great opportunity for companies to listen, and listening is often the first step in effective communication.

Because social media has shown that a few simple tweets can turn into a major crisis, it is vital to directly acknowledge the issue and the affected audience.  A great way to address these people is through the social media outlets in use.  Another important aspect of social media is drawing people to your website during a crisis for additional information. A tweet can only be 140 characters, so a company’s website should be available as the primary platform of information. It’s important to interact with your audience via social media before a crisis situation exists. This way, your social media efforts will be recognized during a crisis. Also, it is vital that all employees understand the company’s new social media response strategies in a crisis.

Although social media adds many more voices to the table, it allows for rapid dissemination of information and a way to monitor public opinion.  This form of communication can ultimately help your company, if you’re willing to jump on the bandwagon.

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