Stacey Hood serves as marketing director for Momentum Communications, based in Birmingham, and is a founding board member for Alabama Social Media Association.
Crisis communications, like many other areas in the typical PR practice, have changed dramatically with social media.
Long gone are the days of the simple one-way reactive plan. There are many sources of crisis communications and it’s necessary to think of the variety of sources you, as a PR pro can draw upon to share the messages.
Thanks to social networks such as Twitter, this source can be an audience member, a pro or, in the case of a natural event, even someone completely unexpected, such as a TV meteorologist.
In the state of Alabama, immense damage was done by a multitude of tornadoes touching down in heavily-populated areas. Entire cities have been wiped off of the map and almost 300 reported dead or missing.
When the storm system that was responsible for these tornadoes started, Birmingham-based meteorologist, James Spann, started using various social networks to supplement his television broadcast and coverage of this life-changing event.
As an early adoptor of social media, Spann is familiar with various social networks, but used Twitter primarily to broadcast warnings and forecasts for the paths of the tornadoes in central Alabama thanks to the fact that power was lost and a large majority of people were able to stay in contact with the Twitter stream coverage. Spann credits Twitter with being able to get most of the warnings out to more people.
In addition to Spann’s coverage and early warnings, other major companies in the state used social media for its crisis communications. Alabama Power, for example, took advantage of the reach of Twitter and broadcast hourly updates of power outages, warnings of downed power lines, announced areas in which shelter was being provided and other statements that previously would have been broadcasted or written about too late.
Individuals used the social network themselves to announce if local stores were running low on much-needed supplies like diapers, bottled water, non-perishable food, etc. Local charities then started using hashtags on Twitter such as #ALNeeds thanks to Spann’s efforts for those involved in local recovery programs.
We are constantly bombarded with reminders to prepare before it’s too late for incidents such as tornadoes; Not only in our personal lives but also in our professional lives as marketers and PR practitioners. It is also important to remember that crisis communications can come in many forms and from unexpected sources.
Stacey Hood serves as marketing director for Momentum Communications, based in Birmingham, and is a founding board member for Alabama Social Media Association. His website, Thinking Out Loud, showcases his thoughts and beliefs towards marketing, public relations and life in general.