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December 27, 2012

Reflections of Top Crises for 2012 & Implications for Crisis Communicators for 2013

It is amazing to reflect back on 2012 and view the year not only for momentous occasions, but also for crisis situations as well.  I think 2012 was indeed the year of the crisis – it started off with a bang with the Costa Concordia crisis in Italy and has ended with the tragedy that occurred just a few weeks ago with the shooting in Newton.

However, several crisis communication colleagues and professionals I know have come up with their lists of the biggest crises in 2012 including Patrice Cloutier, Melissa Agnes, and Jonathan Bernstein. Business Week launched their image slideshow showcasing some of their biggest PR crisis situations of the year as well. I think it is key to highlight the main crisis situations we experienced and witnessed in 2012, but also discuss the implications of these traumatic situations for 2013 for emergency responders, crisis communicators, and others working in this area involving new media.

5. Lance Armstrong:  I am starting off with this crisis case study because it really does raise the important issue of not only being able to manage your reputation, but also sustain it.  Lance was the picture and face of cycling, and he got all of his Tour de France titles taken away from him after WADA stripped his titles away.  Implications for 2013: Looking at brands, corporations, and individuals honesty – if you know they are not really who they are presenting themselves as to the public, this is a huge risk.  We are living in an age of transparency offline and online, so we have to make sure if we are presenting a certain image, we better make sure it is who we really are. Honesty is the best policy.

4. Ravelry Olympics Crisis:  I think this was one of the biggest crisis situations of the year because it was clearly one that could have totally been prevented. I wrote about this case a few months ago, and the IOC not only sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Ravelry group, but their response was not good either. Implications for 2013: Crisis communicators have to recognize and advise others during the course of their communication practices about the best practices for how to address a situation and make sure all personnel in this role are trained for communicating in offline and online environments.

3. Hurricane Sandy:  This monster storm hit the East coast of the US with a massive force and made New Jersey, New York, and other states in the area all calling for states of emergency.  Homes were destroyed and survivors were voicing their opinions to the power company as well as to FEMA in this crisis situation.  Implications for 2013: Hurricane Sandy incorporated all social media platforms to share information to others and the media, while also addressing these updates with pictures posted on Instagram.  This storm in many ways identified the power of Instagram for visual storytelling, but also addressed new challenges with photos dealing with false information, rumors, or even doctored fake photos.

2. Penn State Scandal: This crisis came into the year full swinging with the trial for Jerry Sandusky and the verdict of being guilty for his horrific actions towards young men during his time with the Penn State Football program.  Implications for 2013:  Looking not only what brands and corporations are doing with their external audiences, but really looking at the people behind the brands.  This case was a huge wakeup call for athletics and others to really look internally to the individuals that are part of the organization and contributing to the reputation. We are indeed living in a reputation society right now, and we have to look at these individuals and detect these early warning signs before they transform into crisis situations.

1.  Aurora Colorado Shooting:  The result of what happened in July 2012 in Aurora, Colorado shook the nation as well as the world.  THe fact that one person came into a theatre and conducted one of the worst mass shootings in the US really brought up a lot of discussion in the crisis community.Implications for 2013: What this raises is the growing trend of these individuals who have planned these various situations out and acted alone, but also raises the growing issue for crisis communicators to think about preparing even more so for the unlikely and unexpected situations – both offline and online.

In summary, there have been many other additional crisis situations that have occurred this past year. What we have to do is make sure we take note of what happened in each of these case studies, what went well and what went wrong, what were the various strategies and social media / traditional media channels implemented, and what are some best practices we can take away from all of these for the upcoming year.  Researchers and practitioners in social media and crisis communications have to continue networking and having these ongoing conversations to make sure we are prepared and our respective communities are as well.

Hope you all are having a wonderful day.

Best Wishes,

Karen

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