There’s been a lot recently within the PR business about the
impact of social media on crisis communications. Mostly, this speculation
projects social media as a bad thing. Companies and organizations can be
blind-sided by crises that tend to come out of nowhere, mounted by strangers.
Control becomes hard when sources are unknown or unexpected.
Perhaps there might be some good to dealing with a social
media-driven crisis situation, as Wall Street Journal editor Francesco Guerrera
noted this week in an opinion
column. “In a socially-networked world where investors, customers and
employees are judge, jury and news editors, companies may be able to survive
foul-ups better than in the old days of ‘traditional’ news and corporate spin,”
This could be due to a couple of things: First, social media-related
incidents tend to be much shorter in duration and reach a comparatively smaller
audience than when the traditional media become involved. Second, the
traditional media often tend to become “obsessive-compulsive,” as one
commentator put it, and linger over an incident far longer than the story
merits. My hunch is that with shrinking news budgets, it’s easier for an editor
to just squeeze one more story out of a reporter, rather than moving on to
So what does all this mean to public relations
practitioners? Speed is of the essence, Guerrera reports. Also, reputation
management remains key, as it does with any crisis. Loyal customers, employees and
a supportive public will move on quicker than when there are thousands who will
gladly add their own tales of woe to a troubling post.