One thing that you can almost guarantee that will happen – a crisis will emerge and the first place that you will see it most likely will be on social media. The Business Insider had an interesting perspective stating that the best thing to do in a crisis is to stay away from Twitter. There is some rationale for stating this that I will discuss in a little bit – but it primarily deals with the recent events we have seen in various case studies where people have reported news without confirming the information and it results in negative situations.
One case in particular that we saw this happen is when Joe Paterno was reported to have passed away on Twitter until the family members reported that it was not true. Paterno did pass away the following day, but this case raised concerns about the rush for others to be the first to report the news, get their minute or tweet in the spotlight with the media, and become a “citizen journalist.” These are the types of cases that brings about this issue pertaining to whether or not crisis communicators and others should be on social media and push to be the first one to respond if a crisis or situation emerges.
However, this raises a challenge for crisis communicators and puts us in between a rock and a hard place. If we are on Twitter – we are viewed as not waiting around to disclose the facts and rushing to share information to our audiences that may cause other issues. However, if we are NOT on Twitter or other social media platforms, we are viewed as not being responsive enough or proactive in making sure that they are using all communication channels (traditional, social, and mobile) effectively.
In addition – we have to look at the age cohorts in our audience groups – since this will change as technology advances. This was actually one of the findings I had in my dissertation at the University of Tennessee – in my experiment looking at how the level of intention to comply with food safety recommendation messages appearing from professional (traditional) versus social media sources – there was a variation between the various age cohorts in my study. I used a consumer panel with ResearchNow and had 400 participants (ages 18-82) with the average age to be 44. With the increase of technology advancing through society, we need to explore these emerging trends as well as how they are being used to communicate, share, and receive information about various situations (including crises) across age cohorts and track this.
Crisis communicators – whether it is in PR or journalism or other related disciplines who are involved with dealing with these situations – need to have the proper training to make sure that they are aware of what they need to do in order to get the confirming information. We are living in a day of age where information is coming to us at rapid speed and we do need to have a presence online to get our messages across. We have to be present online 24/7 – but we also need to take the time to really understand the environment we are looking at – meaning, we have to live social media. How will you truly understand social media unless you study it completely with all aspects of life? Our audience members rely on information coming in from new emerging technologies, so we have to have our voice be heard through the wide range of noise being disseminated across the social media sphere.
We need to be on Twitter and other social media platforms – but we need to make sure we have to training and education to know how to evaluate and address the information coming in on these sites proactively and effectively for our organization or agency we are representing.
Hope you all are having a great day!