Freberg, Karen, Saling, Kristin, Vidoloff, Kathleen, G., & Eosco, Gina (2013). Using value modeling to evaluate social media messages: The case of Hurricane Irene. Public Relations Review, 39(3), 185-192.

Advances in social media have opened a world of opportunities for crisis communication professionals and public affairs specialists for sharing information across public and private sectors and disseminating necessary information about a crisis among various stakeholder groups. Emerging technology communication platforms are transforming how crisis communicators reach their audiences and partner agencies in a variety of situations. These transformations and adoptions not only change how individuals and organizations communicate during a crisis, but also how others perceive their actions and behaviors and the overall reputation of brands or corporations involved in the situation. Through an analysis of social media crisis messages and the integration of qualitative and quantitative value modeling techniques, the researchers propose a set of best practices and a simple baseline model for determining what comprises a “good” crisis message, using data collected regarding Hurricane Irene in 2011 to demonstrate a proof-of-concept model. Implications of this research include the construction of guidelines for effective crisis communication and reputation management monitoring using social media platforms.

Social mention was used to collect 2,157 updates appearing on social media platforms from August 22, 2011 to September 1, 2011 from more than 100 social media sites.

Key Findings
1) Twitter was one of the primary resources for information related to this particular crisis.
2) While some traditional hashtags were used consistently, there were some geographical differences (i.e., North Carolina had #ncirene and Maryland had #mdirene).
3) It was unclear whether hashtags differences were effectively communicated across media platforms or agencies. Government agencies were all using some of the same hashtags, but other sources were not.
4) Some agencies added idiosyncratic tags to their updates.
5) All of the top updates were associated with Twitter, yet only four updates used a hashtag.
6) The updates that received the highest scores were more conversational than official in tone of voice, so this should be an area of consideration for crisis communication professionals operating in social media.

Implications for Practice
Individuals want both textual and visual information in times of crisis as well as references to a credible source. Organizations and agencies need to be strategic in monitoring and assigning hashtags for specific events for others to monitor, follow, and respond to if need be. Proper training in this practice for crisis communications professionals using social media needs to be explored.  Project EPIC from the University of Colorado has initiated this type of research with their “Tweak the Tweet” application to use in disasters. Most of the updates collected from Social Mention focused on addressing breaking news about Hurricane Irene, but they were framed to be more conversational than official compared to traditional media. Practitioners should explore whether conversational tone versus official may be more beneficial.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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