Posted by: kpokrass | November 17, 2013

Social Media: a Friend or Foe During a Crisis

Tomorrow, Melissa and I will be discussing the theories behind Corporate Crisis Communication. Specifically, I will be focusing on the social-mediated crisis communication model (Liu et al., 2011). When it comes to crisis communication, social media can be a company’s friend or foe. Corporations need to integrate social media into their crisis communication plans because in today’s world there is not just one source of media that people retrieve their news from. Because of how information travels on social media, be it organization or third-party driven, corporations should incorporate this tool as a way to directly supply up-to-date critical information to the public. Otherwise, information about the crisis could go viral from third party who might not have all the facts straight.

Social media channels can be powerful tools that companies have at their disposal to assist with communicating vital information to their publics. However, Liu et al. (2011) found in 2009 only 29% of U.S. companies had a formal social media policy. Hopefully, four years later the percentage of companies who have a social media crisis plan has increased.

What happens when corporations do not include social media into their crisis communication plans?  What do they lose by not including social media in their plans?

Liu, B.; Austin, L.; Jin, Y (2011). How publics response to crisis communication strategies: The interplay of information form and source. Public Relations Review, 37, 345-353.


  1. Thanks for your thoughtful post. When corporations—and other organizations—omit social media from their crisis communications plans, they lose the ability to control the message.

    Whether it’s because the conversation happens too quickly for a traditional media response or there is confusion over who is empowered to act, the problem is the same. Only the people who are a part of the conversation can drive it.

    As disturbing as it is to know how few companies have crisis communications plans that include social media, it is more worrisome how frequently I hear of an organization without any communications plan.

    In order to draft a social media plan or elaborate on a crisis plan, it’s important for all stakeholders to be on the same page about the goals that are driving the organization.

    Have you ever been surprised to learn of a seemingly sophisticated group operating without a communications plan in place? Have you ever led an effort to draft a plan?

  2. Hi Lori – Thank you for your comment. Yes, I’m sad to admit that my work just recently developed a formal communications plan. I’ve been here two years and when I was first hired I was shocked to learn they had nothing in place. With our recent leadership change, communications is now more of a priority for our division and our new Communications Manager for the West Region is kicking it off. So, I am excited that we now have a plan and that there is some method to our madness.

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