Social Media as a Crisis Tool

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By: Christina Targosz

Social media sites have been an increasingly important part of our everyday lives, both personal and professional. Ypulse conducted a studying finding more than half of Millennials today get their daily dose of news from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It has become the go-to source of news, especially in a crisis.

As PR pros, knowing the appropriate medium to communicate a message is often as important as the message itself. This is especially important when it comes to crisis communication. You have probably heard numerous examples crisis communications being handled poorly on social media, one that jumps to mind is Carnival Cruise Lines. We wanted to share some examples of when the right channels were utilized in the right way to communicate a message during a crisis.

Instagram

Appearance is a major factor in determining how the public, and other professionals perceive your client. We all want our clients to appear as the happy, smiley professionals we know they are, but that doesn’t always happen. One little slip of the temper or lack of judgment can leave your client with some publicity they aren’t too happy about. That is where Instagram comes in. It’s an immediate way to get those cheerful images into the minds and memories of the public, and hopefully forget the ugly incident you want them to forget.

Beyonce and her sister Solange Knowles recently used Instagram following the dispute between Solange and Jay-Z in an elevator. The sisters played a back-and-forth game, uploading pictures of the two during happier times.

Facebook

A PR professionals’ first thought of a after a corporate crisis probably isn’t ‘hey, what’s happening on Facebook?’ but maybe it should be. A recent study done by the University of Missouri School of Journalism found “posting public relations information on Facebook during a time of crisis can improve the overall image of the organization that is experiencing the crisis.” While a Facebook post may seem less formal, the public views it as “more personal” and written by a real life human being.

In 2012, GoDaddy, an Internet domain registrar and web hosting company, experienced a crisis when thousands of its customers’ domains and websites crashed. Thousands of businesses did not have access to websites, causing major frustration from both businesses and customers. However, GoDaddy worked diligently to fix the crashed sites and kept its customers continually updated by posting to its Facebook wall. The response from customers was overwhelmingly positive thanks to GoDaddy’s frequent updates.

Twitter

Twitter is a great tool to use during a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. It gives viewers’ instantaneous news and continual updates, faster than most newspapers or TV stations can crank out new information. Just be sure to Tweet facts you know to be 100% true. It can be easy to tweet out false information in the rush of chaos, and if you do it can lead to more work for you in the future.

After the earthquake in Japan, a worried family member used Twitter to find her sister. Megan Walsh tweeted at Ann Curry to help find her sister, Canon Purdy, when Curry was visiting the aftermath. Curry traveled to the school Walsh’s sister was at, found Purdy, and put her in contact with her sister, who had waited 72 hours to hear she was alive.