media is making crisis management more important in public relations.
It’s changing the number of crises, their speed, rate of proliferation
and the response mechanism. Let’s look at the impact social media is
having on crisis comms, and what that means to us as communicators:
- there are more crises overall. Not the physical type (accident,
mishap) but the informational type (misinformation spreading). Given
the increase in the amount of information flowing, there are more
errors, misunderstandings and simply countervailing opinions in
circulation which need to be corrected, countered or somehow contained.
Speed – crises break much faster in line with the speed of the news cycle. This places more emphasis on monitoring.
Reach – the proliferation of a crisis is broader, reaching a bigger audience.
This means issues are no longer local, but global. Crisis comms needs
to be a global portfolio.
- Google never forgets, so once the crisis has blown over, it stays in
the collective memory for a long time. Even though it happened in 2004,
a search on ‘Kryptonite Bike Lock’ on Google still has the second entry as the biro story. That was five years ago – ouch.
- we’ve always known that a crisis hurts the brand, but not by how
much. Now we can get a glimpse since we can track the traffic from
online sources to the main site, we can track the proliferation of the
story, easily see the number of recurrences of a damaging
- if appropriate, we can fight back. There is a right to reply on
almost all social media outlets, so there is a chance to comment
directly and indirectly. No longer just a letter to the editor or a
belated correction, but a comment directly tied to the relevant article.
Length – they may be permanent, but they are normally short. Phew. The speed
and frequency dynamics mean that crises normally burn quickly then blow
over as the next one breaks and attention moves on. This doesn’t mean
that the issues don’t need to be addressed but you won’t be under the
spotlight for long.
Given these dynamics, in a follow up post we’ll look at how social media impacts our response to crises.