When a crisis arises, it’s a make or break situation for a company. Even the smallest of issues can become a full blown crisis with devastating damages to reputation and finances. In the event of a crisis, the media is a companies greatest ally. In today’s society, a company can be it’s own ally through social media. Although the impact of social media in a crisis it not entirely understood, social media is a powerful and now essential communication tool during a crisis.
Shultz identifies the following as some positive aspects of Twitter in a crisis:
– Communication through Twitter during a crisis leads to less negative crisis reactions than blogs and newspaper articles.
– Twitter users were more likely to share the message than blog users and nonusers of social media.
Here are some examples from real social media use during a crisis:
After a social media employee accidentally tweeted a personal tweet on the Red Cross Twitter account, the organisation quickly jumped online to rectify the employees mistake. If the organisation hadn’t acknowledged the mistake as quickly as they did, the nature of the rogue tweet would’ve made this honourable humanitarian organisation look very bad.
The rogue tweet: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”
In the past week, a tragic event saw the need for Malaysia Airlines to implement crisis communication for the second time this year. The horrific event of the shooting down of MH17 put the crisis team at Malaysia Airlines to the test again. Since the event unfolded, the use of Twitter has been vital in communicating updates, condolences and information about safety and future flights.
Ultimately, the importance of social media in a crisis is becoming a pivotal tool in reducing the damaging impacts to an organisations reputation and public perception.
F Shultz et al, Public Relations Review 34, 2011, pp20-27)