Wigley, Shelley, & Zhang, Weiwu (2011). A study of PR practitioners’ use of social media in crisis planning. Public Relations Journal, 5(3).
This study is one of the few attempts to investigate how public relations practitioners use social media in crisis planning and crisis communication as well as in ordinary situations. A survey exploring social media and crisis planning was conducted with 251 members of the Public Relations Society of America. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they have incorporated social media into their crisis plans. Of these respondents, most indicated they have incorporated Twitter as a tool in their crisis planning, primarily for distribution purposes. Additionally, the study found that public relations professionals whose organizations rely more heavily on social media tools in their crisis planning correlated positively with practitioners’ greater confidence in their organization’s ability to handle a crisis. As for practitioners’ use of social media in their everyday practice, results revealed that a large percentage use social media on a personal level; however, results also indicated that a large percentage of respondents’ organizations (82%) use social media. Survey respondents indicated that the stakeholders they communicate with most via social media are potential customers and clients (71%), followed by news media (61%).
An online survey of 251 members of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was conducted to investigate how PR practitioners’ and organizations’ use social media tools in crisis management was conducted from January through March 2010.
1) More than three quarters (76.1%) of working PR professionals often and always used social media in practice. In total, 97.2% (N=243) of them used social media in their practices.
2) Less than half (48.2%, N = 95) of PR practitioners indicated that their organizations have incorporated the use of social media tools into their crisis communication plans. The most frequently incorporated platform was Twitter, followed by Facebook, blogs and YouTube, respectively.
3) Public relations professionals whose organizations rely more heavily on social media tools in their crisis planning correlated positively with practitioners’ greater confidence in their organization’s ability to handle a crisis.
Implications for Practice
Crisis managers should think about social media as a way to prepare for a crisis and develop relationships with stakeholders, by using dialogue, etc. The savvy practitioner knows that social media can help ensure the organization is prepared from all angles. Furthermore, public relations practitioners understand that social media has become an important factor in how crises are reported on by the media and therefore managed by public relations practitioners. Incorporating these tools also inspire organizational confidence.
The full article is available for free at: http://www.prsa.org/intelligence/prjournal/documents/2011wigleyzhang.pdf