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  • Writer's pictureCrisis Shield

Social Media in crisis communications

In the last 12 months there’s been plenty of speculation and comment about the use of social media as a crisis communication tool in emergency response. As we discussed in an earlier blog, “A world of crisis – what is the role of PR?”, crisis management is an area of public relations that is moving up the agenda as a matter of necessity.

With the influx of serious humanitarian and corporate crises across the globe, emergency response and associated issues are more tangible, more important, and of greater public interest, than ever before. So it follows that a contemporary approach to crisis communications should harness the most widely used and fastest growing new media available – social media – whether through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, FourSquare, or others. But, does using social media in crisis communications really work? Do people take notice of the information they receive this way, and are these channels manageable?

‘Yes!’, say recently released reports analysing crisis communication activities undertaken in response to the 2010-2011 floods and cyclones in Queensland and Victoria. Drawing on a significant body of evidence, the reports find social media is an efficient, wide-reaching and – perhaps surprisingly – resilient means of communication in times of adversity. Researchers from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation studied the use of social media in coverage of, and response to, the 2010/2011 Queensland floods – CCI Report Highlights Role of Social Media in Floods Coverage and Response.

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has been hailed as a world leader in the application of social media devices in emergency services for their efforts during the 2010/2011 disasters. QPS’ Media and Public Affairs Branch began a trial use of social media accounts Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in May 2010, with simple aims: to claim social media presence, start a two-way conversation with their public, and to pre-emptively engage a community of followers online before the incidence of a disaster. They ended up with a social media communication model that doubtlessly saved lives – Queensland Police Service Disaster Management and Social Media – a case study (

These examples highlight the importance of having a sound crisis management plan in place that suitably prepares an organisation, or the public, for a crisis event. In action, this should translate to crisis media management capabilities that can use all available outlets to control the flow of information.

As the QPS’s case study shows, preparation is essential to ensure a stable launching pad for crisis response. Consult a crisis media expert to help your organisation establish a solid crisis management foundation. When executed well, these activities have the power to save reputations in a corporate crisis, or human lives in an emergency.

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