Twitter as a crisis management tool

We all know that Twitter is great at getting the word out. Celebrities use it to announce new roles, marital breakups etc. Corporations alert people to pending announcements and editorial coverage that puts them in a good light. But the chatty nature of Twitter makes it less suitable to crisis management and more suited to crisis generation. Or does it? We all know that when a crisis breaks, people start tweeting like mad and in no time, thanks to the power of Twitter, the world knows about it. Against this hailstorm it’s hard for people to fight back and ‘get the truth out’. Interestingly having looked at recent crises that have been in the media lately (eg BP), it’s clear that Twitter is rarely, if at all, used to counter a crisis. Conventional crisis management is all about getting control of the message and perhaps many view Twitter as an environment where you can’t necessarily control the message. I’d argue that Twitter offers a great way to get your message across and that it is no less ‘controlled’ than any other vehicle. If anything it offers you the chance to create an authentic, timely mouthpiece for the company. It also offers a way to get important information out quickly. This gives Twitter the advantage of enabling you to show those affected that you are acting responsibly by sharing information they may find beneficial in real time. Of course one of the real disadvantages Twitter has is that most Fortune 500 board members don’t use it and probably never will. It therefore takes a huge leap of faith for them to accept using it as a tool to manage a crisis they are at the heart of. I hope as communications professionals we don’t let that prevent us from giving them the right counsel. IMHO Twitter isn’t just for the good news, it’s also for those times when you really wish your phone would stop ringing.

2 Comments on “Twitter as a crisis management tool”

  1. I agree with you. Twitter is useful as a monitoring tool as well as for outgoing communications during a crisis. HOWEVER, if an organization waits until it has a breaking crisis to start Tweeting, it won’t have an established base of followers who are far more likely to pass their messages on than people who are learning about the organization for the first time as a result of the crisis.

    Jonathan Bernstein
    Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc.

  2. Lauren Willmott says:

    What do you think about Eurostar’s lack of tweeting during their breakdown in December 2009?

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