Crisis Management and Social Media

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Public Relations ・APA ・8 Sources

The social media site is used to exchange information, pictures and data about events. It is a communication system that can be used in a short time to deliver short and long messages. Stakeholders typically look forward to receive information from any source during an organizational crisis. Their main worry is the magnitude of the crisis and whether they can live with the consequences. Other stakeholders are interested in understanding how they are impacted and how to recover from the repercussions of the crisis. The desire to save material, regardless of the source, is an opportunity for the public and actors.

The first place to check is the social media platforms to see whether other people are aware of the incidence. People search for official communication from the affected organization as they expect official social media platforms to release information to the stakeholders. Some of the social media platforms used include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat among others. If the information circulating on the social media platforms is incorrect, it may affect people’s attitude towards the organization. Managers have to act fast to prevent wrong information from reaching the audience. The best way to disseminate information is to release messages that are clear and well-designed. The messages should have no room for misinterpretation. Besides, the release information should be consistent with the media releases and official communication conveyed through other communication means. This paper presents information on the role played by social media in crisis management. Also, the article gives a proposed methodology and analysis which seeks to ascertain the use of social media communication during a crisis.

Introduction

 A crisis is typical occurrences in organizations, and their causes are usually diverse. The art of crisis management depends on the conditions surrounding the incident and availability of necessary tools of communication. Social media has become a crucial tool in crisis management as it works to facilitate communication between the organizational management and various stakeholders. The importance of social media is that it can reach man people within a short period. The aspect of sharing information through social media platforms and formation of groups whose participants share common characteristics has made social media a reliable communication tool. Some of the social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Whatsapp. A message posted on the timeline of a group in any social media platform reaches all the members at the same time. In turn, the members post the information to other social media groups hence information dissemination becomes rapid as compared to conventional means of communication. Such understanding helps in drafting messages tailored for specific stakeholders, providing them with the information they deem important. The reason for using social media is that it will spread the intended information to stakeholders within a short period hence lowering the tension surrounding the crisis. Efficient use of social media as a tool for communication during a crisis requires the management specialists to understand the emotional needs of the audience and the particular information the stakeholders are seeking.

Literature Review

A study carried out by Brummette, and Sisco shows that Twitter is used as a means of dealing with emotions emanating from uncontrollable crises. The article investigates how the organizational management evaluates tweets with the purpose of understanding the public response towards a crisis. Besides understanding the stakeholders’ response, the analysis of social media messages helps the management in drafting messages that are instrumental in coping with the crisis. The study shows that emotions before, during and after an organizational crisis serve an important role in the management of the predicament. The research found out that the use of integrated crisis mapping (ICM) model can assist organization design ways of handling the stakeholders’ emotions (Brummette & Sisco, 2015). Besides, such models reveal the emotional challenge stakeholders go through. Also, the ICM model helps in evaluating the available options necessary to cope with the situation. The study claims that the most important aspect of crisis management is minimizing negative emotions expressed by the various stakeholders. Fear and anxiety due to uncertainty related to the crisis tend to escalate aggressive response by stakeholders towards the response. Further, the study recommends the use of “technology-focused approach” to quickly bring the whole situation under control. Social media is technology-based approach and is useful in delivering messages to the affected parties during a crisis. However, managers need to design messages for different social media platforms to ensure the information is understood.

Jin, Liu, and Austin (2014) carried out a study to examine the role played by social media during crisis management. The research analyzes the form of communication used during management of a crisis and the origin of misinterpreted public responses towards the crisis. The authors also evaluate the effects of the source of the crisis on effective control of the situation. The observations of the study were that social media is widely used to share information concerning an organizational crisis (Jin, Liu, & Austin, 2014). The information shared over the social media determines public acceptance of the events leading to the crisis and contributes towards the stakeholders’ outrage as they respond to the crisis. According to the research, a majority of the stakeholders and part of the general public seek out emotional support from social media. The information the public and stakeholders encounter in social media as responses to the crisis may make them feel insecure or presume that the situation is out of control. Therefore, the information released by managers to the social media platforms should show how well the case is being handled as well as offer the progress that has been made. The reason for seeking emotional support in social media platforms is because members empathize with them and give consolation to the affected individuals. However, not all responses given over social media is appropriate for the audience, but the most essential information is the one coming from the team managing the situation. If there is a miscommunication from the organizational management, the response will be debated by the stakeholders and may cause public unrest. Also, the messages to be posted on social media should be brief and clear to avoid misinterpretation by the public. The study shows that the cause of the crisis is key to managing the situation and should be identified as quickly as possible so that appropriate strategies can be applied. Besides, communication tools used to inform both the stakeholders and the public should be fed with filtered but clear information. The research claims that the audience gives undivided attention to news coming from the organizational management, and therefore there is need to exercise caution when designing messages to be conveyed.

Tandoc and Takahashi (2017) researched to evaluate the idea of collective management of a crisis using social media as a communication tool. Their study is based on the responses and strategies used to cope with the typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines leading to the death of many people. The research shows that resilience and strategies to cope with a disaster are vital as they assist both the society and the affected individuals recover from the incidence (Tandoc & Takahashi, 2016). Resilience tests the ability of social systems to deal with challenging or catastrophic occurrences. Coping describes the purposeful conduct and response strategies aimed at minimizing psychological effect of a disturbing life event. Collective coping depends on the systems such as social media to persuade members of the society to adopt the approach. Through social media platforms, members of the society can share experiences, crisis images, personal concerns, and frustrations regarding a crisis. Collectively, members of the society can propose strategies to be used in empathizing with the victims of a disaster and dealing with the associated psychological problems (Nicholls, 2012). Additionally, the public offers emotional support to assist the victims to recover from the disaster events (Tandoc & Takahashi, 2016). The study describes three collective coping strategies that use the social media platforms to unite the participants and convey the intended messages.

In virtually every business, social media has become an essential tool in crisis management. Most managers are incorporating social media platforms in the running of business operations and management of an organizational crisis. The primary purpose is to have control over the information on a crisis that is reaching the stakeholders and the public. If the manager does not use social media to provide the progress the management has accomplished in handling the situation, then the people starts disseminating false information (Austin, Liu, & Jin, 2012). Spreading of wrong messages might hurt the reputation of the organization hence affecting it acceptance and profitability. It is therefore imperative for a manager to know what is happening on the social media platforms so that the whole situation does not go out of control.

There are various ways in which an organizational management can incorporate social media during a crisis management. First, social media should be integrated into the crisis management strategies. The purpose is to establish open channels of communication and make stakeholders aware of the mode of communication commonly used by an organization (Kargillis, Gillam, & Kako, 2014). The importance of prior incorporation of social media into management strategies is that when a disaster hit, the stakeholders understand the channels to be used to inform them. Secondly, the roles of social media platforms should be defined and recognize by the organization. Managers should have official accounts on social media platforms which they use to keep in touch with the clients. Clear guidelines on the use of social media platforms help the organizational management establish communication with the stakeholders and provide the relevant information regarding a crisis. Thirdly, information delivered over social media platforms should not be just defensive but informative (Freberg, 2012). Presenting information only to defend the stand of the organization during a crisis may prompt the public and stakeholders dismiss it and fail to follow up on subsequent communication. If stakeholders discredit the information over social media platforms, the situation is likely to get out of hand.

Also, the information posted in social media should be consistent with media statements on the organizational crisis. Besides, the guest communications should be in line with the information posted on social media. The conversational tone should not be offensive since it is being received by victims who are emotionally hurt hence they do not need to be provoked further through inappropriate messages. An evaluation should be carried out on the messages released on social media to ascertain the response of the public (Veil, Buehner, & Palenchar, 2011). If the response was not right, then the subsequent messages posted on social media by organizational management should be adjusted to address the identified concerns.

Methodology and Analysis

The role of social media platforms will be determined through a research study. The study will be conducted using interview and questionnaires as methods of data collection. The proceedings of the interview will be recorded while the questionnaires will be administered for the participants to fill then they will be used to carry out data analysis. Some of the interviews will be conducted through telephone communication due to the geographical location of some of the participants. The participants in the study will be selected from areas that have been affected by a disaster or have been victims of the organizational crisis. They will be contacted early in advance to ensure they are psychologically prepared to participate in the study.

The procedure to be followed will involve meeting the participants at a designated place where they will be offered consent forms to sign. Firstly, the questionnaires will be administered for the participants to fill. After collecting the questionnaires, they will be stored safely. Secondly, the interviews will commence and various researchers will engage the participants. All the proceedings will be recorded for use during confirmation and analysis of the given information. The participants who are far away will be contacted through a telephone, and the conversation will be recorded too. After data collection is completed, the researchers will engage in data confirmation and analysis. The analysis strategy used will include calculation of percentages, mean, and standard deviation. The obtained results show that more than 80 percent of the participants used social media to get information and seek emotional support after a crisis. The mean value obtained was 400 out of the total 500 participants. The results show that many people turn to social media for information while the affected individuals seek support and consolation. The limitation of the study is that victims of a disaster or organizational crisis may provide information that is biased since they were overwhelmed by emotions at the time the event happened. The victims might have been anxious to find any information on the organizational crisis hence they only thought of using social media. It is probable that if it were not for the anxiety, the participants may have used other means of finding out about the incident. It is possible that the people who are not affected by a disaster may fail to use social media to seek information but utilize conventional methods of getting information such as television and radio broadcasts.

Conclusion

Social media is a useful tool for communication during an organizational crisis. The information reaches many people within a short span of time and therefore should be considered while developing management strategies. Managers should incorporate social media communication method so that stakeholders are aware of the correct source of information when a disaster strikes. Managers should run official social media accounts to create a rapport with the outside community and the general public. An organization should also have official social media accounts where the management post information for use by various stakeholders. The use technology based approach such as utilization of social media platforms is fast and essential; hence it can prevent miscommunication during a crisis

References

Austin, L., Fisher Liu, B., & Jin, Y. (2012). How audiences seek out crisis information: Exploring the social-mediated crisis communication model. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40(2), 188-207.

Brummette, J., & Sisco, H. F. (2015). Using Twitter as a means of coping with emotions and uncontrollable crises. Public Relations Review, 41(1), 89-96.

Freberg, K. (2012). Intention to comply with crisis messages communicated via social media. Public Relations Review, 38(3), 416-421.

Jin, Y., Liu, B. F., & Austin, L. L. (2014). Examining the role of social media in effective crisis management: The effects of crisis origin, information form, and source on publics’ crisis responses. Communication research, 41(1), 74-94.

Kargillis, C., Gillham, D., & Kako, M. (2014). Disaster survivors: A narrative approach towards emotional recovery. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, The, 29(2), 25.

Nicholls, S. (2012). The resilient community and communication practice. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, The, 27(1), 46.

Tandoc Jr, E. C., & Takahashi, B. (2016). Log in if you survived: Collective coping on social media in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. New media & society, 1461444816642755.  

Veil, S. R., Buehner, T., & Palenchar, M. J. (2011). A work‐in‐process literature review: Incorporating social media in risk and crisis communication. Journal of contingencies and crisis management, 19(2), 110-122.

Appendix

Questionnaire

  1. What is your name, occupation, and place of residence?
  2. Have you ever been involved in an organizational crisis or fallen victim of a disaster? [yes][no]
  3. Describe how you learned about the crisis.
  4. Which methods did you use to verify the information and seek more information about the occurrence?
  5. How did the crisis affect you?
  6. From where did you get consolation and emotional support?
  7. How are you related to the people who gave you support at the time of the crisis?
  8. Have you recovered from the psychological effects of the crisis? What has helped you overcome the effects?
  9. How does your society help the victims of a disaster and what strategies are used?
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