Social media: when is a crisis not a crisis?

Social media: when is a crisis not a crisis?

Yani Giazizoglou

Yani Giazizoglou

I’ve written before about the need for disciplined messaging and a coherent narrative in crisis communications. For me it’s one of the most interesting aspects of PR, so when the opportunity arose to attend a Social Media Week event all about ‘crisis comms’, I jumped at the chance. The speakers on the day were the usual great and good from the world of PR and social media, all with great insights and opinions on how best to prepare, react to and contain a crisis. We were entertained with tales of gaffes, cock-ups and spin – but one line really struck me: “it’s important to make sure the crisis actually is a crisis” – a sentiment I can’t help but agree with. In our age of hyper-connectivity, social media and 24 hour news, small comments can be blown out of all proportion and ripple through an organisation’s stakeholders and beyond.

[caption id="attachment_7181" align="alignleft" width="235"]Tucker's downfall: "nuke and rebuke" Tucker's downfall: "nuke and rebuke"[/caption]

Like the mad-house portrayed in political satire The Thick of It, comms professionals can and do overreact to what they perceive as a ‘crisis’; making a mountain out of what is actually a very small molehill. I’ll spare the blushes of the PRs who shared stories of overreactions at Social Media Week, but to illustrate my point I’ll borrow again from The Thick of It. In one of my favourite scenes, Malcolm Tucker (a fictional Downing Street Director of Communications, loosely based on Alastair Campbell) tells a civil servant to “nuke and rebuke” the BBC for some perceived slight. Overreaction leads in turn to a gaggle of journalists ‘doorstepping’ the (fictional) Department for Social Affairs and Citizenship and eventually to Tucker’s downfall in the final series when his role is scrutinised. This is a classic, if exaggerated, example of how people working in comms can sometimes create a crisis out of what is actually a small blip. As another delegate at Social Media Week said: it’s important to profile those creating negative ‘noise’ about your brand or organisation, it could just be a particular lobby group or sectional interest, for example.  If the problem-noise ‘infects’ elements of your consumer base, that’s when you’re in trouble.

The moral of this story for PRs is simple: when it comes to crises, be proportionate in your response.  Hysteria gets you nowhere.

Share this story:

Read more from the blog

Comms planning

What can 'The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch' teach us about managing reputations?

Lucas Jackson analyses Netflix's latest documentary on Abercrombie and Fitch, discussing its impact on reputation. ...Read more

Lucas Jackson
Lucas Jackson
Tech News

April showers bring May flowers in the form of exciting tech innovation

May has brought a range of innovation across the tech sector, from AI to VR and more. ...Read more

Megan Hogg
Megan Hogg
Claire Walker

A virtual playground: How can VR tools benefit your comms efforts?

As VR adoption increases, the technology is transforming both the world of work and our personal lives. How can comms professionals leverage VR for campaigns? ...Read more

Claire Walker
Claire Walker

Add a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information