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Order from chaos:  Interplay of Social Media and Crisis Communication
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Order from chaos: Interplay of Social Media and Crisis Communication


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  • 1. Order from Chaos: Understanding the Interplay of Social Media and Crisis Communication W. Timothy Coombs University of Central Florida
  • 2. Chaos
  • 3. Driving questions• What is a social media crisis? – What does it mean to use social media in a crisis?• What are tactical implications for crisis communication?• What are the strategic implications for crisis communication?
  • 4. Taxonomy of “Crises” Crises OrganizationalDisasters Crises
  • 5. Central Concerns of Organizational Crises• Public safety (physical health)• Public welfare (psychological health)• Public perception (reputation)• Operations (business continuity)
  • 6. Taxonomy Part 2 Organizational CrisesTraditional Social Media Crises Crises
  • 7. Traditional crisis• Public safety and welfare
  • 8. Social media crisis• Public perception (Reputation)
  • 9. a concern that arises in or is amplifiedby social media resulting in negativelegacy media coverage, changes inbusiness operations, or threatensfinancial loss a rhetorical construction
  • 10. Sources of social media crises Organizational Misuse Dissatisfied Challengers Customers Social Media Crisis
  • 11. Taxonomy Part 3 Social Media Crisis Stakeholder Organizational Actions Actions Customer Misuse ofChallenges Complaints Social Media
  • 12. Organizational misuse• Inappropriate use (competence) – Apologize and correctCrisis Connection• Purposeful misuse (moral)
  • 13. Dissatisfied Customers• Customer relations, not a crisis – Resolve the concern (opportunity & transparency)Crisis Connection• Warning of a product harm
  • 14. Challenges• Stakeholder claims organization is acting in irresponsible manner – Threat to CSR claims – Threat to reputations
  • 15. Social media as risk• Stakeholders take control of organization’s social media – Planned – Spontaneous• Creates negative messages
  • 16. Social media as risk
  • 17. From social media crisis to Use of social media in a crisis
  • 18. Implications for crisis communication• Tactical (tools)• Strategic (how to reach goals)
  • 19. Tactics by Crisis phase Pre-Crisis Crisis Post-Crisis• Monitoring • Requisite • Updates for threats response • Monitor for• Anticipate • Consistency memorials channels with channels • Monitor reactions
  • 20. Major impact on pre-crisis phase New visibility New Tools New Choices
  • 21. Increase public visibility Pre-crisis Crisis Response
  • 22. Increase public visibility Pre-crisis Crisis Response
  • 23. Publicly• Resolve customer complaint – Demonstrate skill and commitment• Address organizational faux pas• Response to challenge
  • 24. Tactical: Pre-crisis• Improve monitoring• Anticipate channels
  • 25. Monitoring• Scan social media for warning signs/threats
  • 26. Anticipate channels• Control channels tied to brand, even if inactive – EX: Twitter feeds• Pre-prepared messages• Be active if relevant
  • 27. Tactical: Crisis Response Requisite response Consistency with channels
  • 28. Same Channel: Fed-ex
  • 29. Integration: KidCo
  • 30. Tactics: Post-crisis• Social media ideal for updating• Identify online memorials
  • 31. Visibility = PressureChallenge is the Nexus ofTactics and Strategy
  • 32. Paracrisis• Publicly visible crisis threat that charges an organization with irresponsible or unethical behavior• Associated with challenge crises
  • 33. Strategy by Crisis phase Pre-crisis Crisis Post-crisis• Assess • Select • Relationship threats Channel to• Select memorials response
  • 34. Assessment: Origins of challenges• Organic: values evolve and organization may fall behind• Expose: disconnect (deception) between organizational words and deeds for responsibility• Villain: repeated efforts to attack a particular organization or industry
  • 35. Assessment: Nature of threatPowerLegitimacyUrgency
  • 36. Response choices: Rhetoric• Accommodation: incorporate challenge into organizational operations• Adaptation: incorporate some variation of the challenge into the organization• Rejection: maintain status quo with rationale• Redemption: apologize for the deception and validate new actions (expose only)
  • 37. Channel selection• Indiscriminant: wide dispersion (small seed) – Low cost – Fast and easy – Overlap and repetition• Selective – Need for cognition by stakeholders • Public safety driven (why useful in disasters) – Channels used by stakeholders – Focus monitoring on reactions in select social media
  • 38. Online memorials• Promote grieving and healing (public welfare)• Should organization create one? – Uni- or multi-vocal• Should organization link to one? – Contact creators first• Informed by memory studies
  • 39. Order?• New channels = change – Evolution NOT Revolution• Are “social media” crises (paracrises)• Existing theory appropriate platform – Map tactical use of social media – Understand strategic implications – Add “new” theories and concepts as needed• Effective strategy never goes out of style
  • 40. Challenge dynamic: Strategy Stakeholder ChallengeQuiescence or Stakeholder AssessmentSupport Reaction Organizational Response Constraints
  • 41. Challenge protocol• Challenger contacts the organization first with demands—petition
  • 42. Power• Number of social media channels and ease of use• Communicative skills of challenger• Past success of challengers
  • 43. Legitimacy• Challenge is viewed as acceptable• Evidence others supporting challenge• Legitimacy of the challengers
  • 44. Urgency• Challengers commitment to the concern• Reflects threat is long term• Promote need for action
  • 45. Constraints• Financial costs of change• Consistency with organizational strategy• Potential benefits from change• Potential damage from status quo