Red Cross Diverts Social Media Crisis

Red Cross Diverts Social Media Crisis

Posted 06/28/12

As the number of users on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media networks increase, companies are starting to incorporate social media into their businesses as a way to remain popular among certain audiences and consumers.

Many companies are relishing in the fact that social media has made it easier than ever to communicate with consumers. However, some companies such as BPNestle, and Dole have fallen victim to social media crises because of the fact that a social media crisis plan had not been created.

According to Krik Hallahan, a professor of Journalism and Technical Communication at Colorado State University, “The one thing people must remember is that the fundamental steps are the same when you are dealing with any crisis. You have to monitor the situation closely, provide accurate information quickly, don’t speculate, and always be cautious.” Hallahan went on to say, “The only thing social media changes are the number of fronts you have to monitor.”

A prime example of a company that evolved a crisis management plan to manage the nuances of social media was the Red Cross.

On February 15 2011, Gloria Huang, a Red Cross employee, accidently tweeted a post onto the Red Cross’ Twitter page.  Huang meant to tweet the following message on her personal account:

“Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”

The above tweet was viewed by over 700,000 America Red Cross followers. Because of the possibility that the tweet was seen by a majority of the Red Cross’ Twitter followers, the Red Cross went into crisis management mode.

“When it comes to taking on a social media crisis, one main difference is that the company needs to enlarge its PR team quickly to cope with the crisis and still maintain adequate coverage for regular mass media,” state Hallahan.

The first step the Red Cross took in managing the crisis was to respond to the crisis immediately. If the Red Cross had not had enough people monitoring its websites the tweet may not have been found in a timely manner. However, within a day of the post appearing on the Red Cross Twitter page, the Red Cross deleted the tweet made by Huang and tweeted the following message:

“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

The second step the Red Cross took in managing the crisis was to remain open and honest with its Twitter followers.  Though the Red Cross deleted the tweet made by Huang, the Red Cross created a blog post that showed the tweet. The post also acknowledged the fact that even though the tweet was deleted it was still seen by many followers and the Red Cross apologized for its  tweeting mistake.  The blog post went on to thank its followers for being understanding of its mistake and for making donations after reading the humorous tweet.

The final step the Red Cross took to manage the crisis was to remain personable and humorous.  The Red Cross did this by having Huang tweet the following messages from her personal account:

“Rogue tweet frm @RedCross due to my inability to use hootsuite…I wasn’t actually #gettingslizzard but just excited! #nowembarassing”

“Back to the safety of desktop tweetdeck instead of iphone hootsuite. No more #gettingslizzard posts, but how about #givingblood?”

These tweets helped to make light of the situation, while at the same time created awareness of the importance of giving blood.

The Red Cross crisis shows that with the right crisis management plan in place almost all crises, whether they involve social media or not, can be overcome. Companies need to remember to always have a thorough crisis plan for all possible crises.

“Steps should be taken before a crisis, during a crisis, and after a crisis to ensure a company survives a crisis and comes out of the situation better than they went in,” stated Cindy Christen, professor of public relations at Colorado State University.

 Map of social media crises from article


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