Social Media for Crisis Communication

National Communication AssociationSocial media outlets have a role to play as one tool in an effective crisis communication strategy, say researchers Shari Veil (University of Kentucky), Tara Buehner (University of Oklahoma), and Michael Palenchar (Univ of Tennessee, Knoxville). At the National Communication Association 2010 annual conference, they presented a paper entitled, “Increasing Dialogue in Disasters: Incorporating Social Media in Risk and Crisis Communication.”

During a crisis, social media tools offer powerful opportunities for organizations to:

  • listen to the pulse of the crisis
  • view social media trends as “a snapshot of public opinion”
  • respond, as a demonstration of care and trust
  • correct misinformation in real-time
  • create a network of credible information and resources during the crisis
  • engage, rather than avoid the issues
  • pause generic marketing campaigns that might appear inappropriate during a crisis
  • humanize the crisis response
  • repackage and critique media portrayals of the crisis
  • involve stakeholders in the messages

Each of these opportunities puts organizations in touch with their constituencies during a crisis. But, which social media tool is best for a crisis? These researchers suggest that the tool should match the scenario, the timing, the target audience, and the message.

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