Posted by: Mike Plett | November 18, 2013

Traditional vs. social media in crisis communication

In “How publics respond to crisis communication strategies,” the authors found that it’s important to strategically match crisis information form (traditional media, social media, and word-of-mouth) and source (third party and organization) when an organization responds to a crisis (Liu et al, 2011). Their study showed that publics are more likely to accept crisis responses that are delivered through traditional media; however, it also found that the source of the crisis response moderated the public’s acceptance of messages. Traditional media and word-of-mouth communication can significantly affect how publics respond to crisis information, as well as the kinds of emotions they are likely to feel. The study did not detect “significant differential effects social media might have on publics’ reported crisis emotions regardless of crisis information source.”

Yet, the authors don’t write off social media. Past research has suggested that publics are more likely to turn to social media when they desire emotional support and want to emotionally vent. Different media play different roles at different crisis stages; therefore, the authors posit that social media might play a more important role after a crisis is well-known, when the public is searching for emotional support.

Do you think the authors are right, and social media might play a more important role in later crisis stages? Social media is a young medium, so does the class think these findings will hold up in the future? It seems likely that attitudes about social media will change over time.

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