Social Media and impact on crisis communication

October 21, 2007

Last week I gave a presentation at the Whatcom Business Conference on social media and how it impacts small businesses. It helped me take a step back and get a little more perspective on how important these changes are for almost anyone in business today. Chuck Wolf, our partner with Media Consultants in Houston, suggested a few weeks ago that we do a white paper on social media and its impact on crisis communication. We agree and are starting to work on that using the survey we did for this conference as a basis.

But what does social media really mean for crisis communicators. Revolution. Nothing less. The internet created the post media world where the domination of those who had the capital invested in mass media began to decline. No longer were millions or billions needed in order to widely distribute information and be influential in forming public opinion.  But web 2.0 or social media took us in a whole new direction. Actually, it took us back to the days where the only form of media was voice. No machines, no electronics, no digits, no electromagnetic waves, nothing. Just one person talking to another or a group of others. What dominated that form was interaction. It wasn’t just one talking to a listener or a small audience, it was discussion, debate, back and forth. And the internet with social media has brought us full circle. But now we combine the machine, the electronics and the digits with the interactivity of highly social settings.

Interactivity is the key to understanding the direction of the future in crisis communication. It is not about the audience any more. In fact, the audience concept seems headed for the dustbin of history. It is about friends. It is about talking directly to one or millions individually and at the same time. You say it can’t be done? I say it must and will be done.

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5 Responses to “Social Media and impact on crisis communication”


  1. […] Gerald Baron, the Crisisblogger, has had a few posts lately that demonstrate this perfectly:  here, on social media’s impact on crisis communication; and here, on cell phone cameras during a […]

  2. nate Says:

    Case in point, here’s my twitter feed for the San Diego fires happening right now.

  3. Lauren Says:

    Hi Gerald,
    I am currently completing a thesis on this very topic. I have been studying the Australian Federal Election and interviewed various industry professionals for my research. I have found that social media provides a platform for organisations in crisis to engage with individuals in a credible and genuine way. You’re right about talking directly to one or millions at the same time. I borrow Moore and Seymour’s (2005) term for this – ‘all-way communication’.

  4. gbaron Says:

    You are right about the focus on individuals. I have commented in recent presentations that the concept of audience is going away in the social media context. It is more about “conversation” and the operative term may be “friends” rather than “audience.” It is difficult for PR professionals, steeped in the patterns of communicating to individuals through the mass media, to get their minds around the mass-individualism of social media. But I am convinced it is a reality that all in public communication and PR need to deal with.


  5. […] CrisisBlogger – A blog about crisis communication (blog post) […]


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