Social media: a vital part of the mix in handling a crisis

Gartner Communications

Strategic Communications Consultancy

Social Media and Crisis Communication report

Companies globally seem to be relatively unprepared for handling social media in crisis situations. This conclusion can be drawn from a recent survey carried out by Gartner Communications – Strategic Communications Consultancy. Some 91 in-house and agency professionals had been asked about the state of preparedness of their own organizations when it comes to dealing with social media in cases of crises. The vast majority – more than 80% – of in-house corporate communications experts answering the survey said their corporations had no defined procedures in place to handle what they – simultaneously – believe to be an increasingly important element of crisis communications. PR agencies seem to be in a better position, with more than two-thirds of respondents claiming to have defined structured and processes at hand to support their clients.

While 85% of responding companies have standard procedures for handling traditional media in crisis situations, only about one-fifth have such defined procedures for handling social media as structured online monitoring, contact lists of key online influencers, approval procedures for corporate posts in blogs and internet forums and members of the crisis team who specialize in social media.

A mere one-tenth of the corporate PR professionals partaking in the survey believe their own organization to be “well prepared” or “excellently prepared” for handling social media in a crisis situation; a striking one-third, rather, see their organization “not at all prepared” or “relatively unprepared.” This lack of preparedness sharply contrasts with the perceived current and future importance of social media. The in-house professionals, on average, rated the importance of social media in crisis situations as a seven on a scale from 1 to 10, with more than two-thirds believing this importance will further increase.

PR agencies are better prepared, with over 60% of participants saying their firms offer clients defined procedures for handling social media in crisis – which still, in turn, means that over a third of agencies do not claim to have this ability. Some 85% of agencies say they’re “well prepared” or “excellently prepared” for helping clients deal with social media in crisis situations.

This gap in confidence between corporations and agencies seems to be reflected in the self-perception of PR professionals on both sides. Some 60% of agency people said they personally, in their current role, feel “comfortable with,” or even have an “excellent knowledge and experience” in working with media in a crisis situation, whereas only one-fifth of corporate PR staff express that level of confidence.

This gap seems to be good business for agencies: 85% of responding companies do contract external agencies for support in crisis situations.

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