Crisis Communication in the Age of Twitter

April 6, 2009

Just wanted to draw your attention to an article by Pat Philbin and myself in the April 2009 edition of PR Tactics newspaper.

There is very strong interest mong many in crisis communications and public relations in general on the topic of social media. At the recent Ragan/PRSA conference on social media I talked about its impact on crisis communication and my message was it changes everything and it changes nothing. By that I mean that social media is having profound impacts on the speed of communication and how people interact with each other. This means that crisis vulnerability increases (because of the easy viral nature of much of it and the ease with which those unhappy with you can create a furor). These same tools used to attack are also effective when used to defend.

But ultimately, social media changes nothing. When you look at what your job as a communicator is. the fundamentals don’t really change. Companies and organizations have to behave properly and act appropriately in a crisis. This is what matters to people. It seems to always come down to two fundamental things: relationships and character. This was true when we were hunkered down around a campfire, and it still is true. Character is shown in action, not words. But words are critically important in communicating about that action. And today, those words must be delivered with incredible speed, focused on direct, interactive communications with those who matter most, and with a degree of transparency that may be unprecedented in our history.

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4 Responses to “Crisis Communication in the Age of Twitter”

  1. Bill S Says:

    Gerald-Perfectly said. Social media doesn’t change the fundamentals of crisis communications. You still have to connect with the people impacted by the crisis and those watching to see how your company takes care of those who have been impacted. Communicators have some new Social Media tools, but fundamentally the game remains the same.

  2. Jacquie Says:

    Very nicely said… a good reminder to us all about the fundamentals of our work.


  3. I could not agree with you more Gerald,

    While social media has increased the speed of distribution of information during crisis, the fundamental issues at the core remain the same. In fact, they require even more attention today because of the plethora of tools available to skilled denizens of the web for unmasking inauthenticity, dishonesty and falsehood.

    It is sometimes easy to allow ourselves to be lulled into a techno-centric vision of the value that we as communicators bring to the table.

    Communicators need to recognize that these are just tools, because that is what social media is, and not the solution itself.

    I look forward to reading more of your invaluable insights.

    Well done.

    P.S. I found your blog through Peter Einarsson’s tweet.

  4. Peter Brill Says:

    Yup, your absolutely right. It all comes down to basics and the ability to communicate a clear message early and effectively. Social media is just another channel to your publics, it doesn’t alter your values, integrity (or otherwise), or the ability to say sorry – as I mentioned in my blog on this issue.


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