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Where Does Social Fit In Crisis Communications Planning?

You need to be prepared for today’s media culture, in which a tweet can become newsworthy and a news interview can become tweet-worthy.” – Brad Phillips of Phillips Media Relations, a.k.a Mr Media Training

Social Media for Crisis Communications

Crisis communications planning continues to serve a critical role in corporate and organizational communications. Where does social fit in crisis communications planning in 2014? Interestingly, in spite of the tremendous increases in mobile and digital communications, developing strategies to employ social media during disasters is not the norm yet. Nor is the use of video and video sharing sites.

To be effective in crisis management in the digital age means being able to use social media strategically. There is no crisis management today without a full understanding of how to use new media to listen to conversations around your brand in real-time, and understand what you do and don’t need to respond to.” – Chris Syme, author of Listen, Engage, Respond blogs at

In April, Continuity Insights published the results of their most recent survey, Crisis Communication: Social Media & Notifications Systems. Continuity Insights has conducted this research annually since 2012 and continues to expand its scope each year. The report’s findings are based on the participation of 270 companies, with respondents’ job functions including: business continuity management, analysts, emergency management, corporate management and risk management. Respondents represented the banking and financial, insurance, manufacturing, professional services and consulting market sectors. The majority of respondents reported using LinkedIn (87 percent) and Facebook (71 percent). Forty-four percent of the people who answered the survey reported using Twitter while 42 percent use YouTube.

Among the key findings reported in the 2014 survey are:

  • Increases in social media usage overall
  • Decreases in the number of organizations using social media to communicate with employees
  • More than half the respondents feel the benefits of using social media as a crisis communications tool outweigh the risks
  • Yet 60 percent of organizations have no strategy or plan in place for using social media during a crisis
  • Nearly 62 percent of respondents plan to use social media to monitor during a crisis
  • Only 17 percent report having a centralized team in place to analyze and disseminate relevant information
  • 58 percent of the respondents rate mobile technologies as absolutely vital in executing crisis communications plans
  • 90 percent of respondents feel that YouTube is not useful or only somewhat useful in communication during a crisis

The Continuity Insights survey illustrates real growth in awareness and understanding of the value of social media and digital and mobile communications. However the report also highlights the continued concern about the risks of using social in disasters, and the lack of planning with regard to data analysis and measurement.

Perfect Plan - Crisis Communications Planning

Social media has become a fact of life.

Whether it is accessed through desktops, smartphones, gaming devices or tablets, in crisis it can serve as both monitoring tool and vital communications channel. Developing strategies for using social media channels effectively during disasters is essential and must support the involvement of a team to analyze and disseminate information gathered during a crisis. You not only need to gather the information, you need to understand what that data is telling you.

It’s not too late. If your organization has not yet included social media in its crisis communications planning, it can, and should, start today.

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Image: Chris Piascikmkhmarketing  (Creative Commons)

About Allen Mireles

Allen Mireles is a strategist and wordsmith with an affinity for technology. She lives at the intersection of social media and traditional marketing and public relations and never gets enough time in the garden. Find her on Twitter @allenmireles.

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