A Blessing or a Curse?

In 2013, a survey reported that more than 28 percent of communication crises spread internationally just during an hour and two thirds of crises spread within twenty-four hours. Half of communication professionals think that organizations are not prepared to handle these crises. Social media has proven itself to be a useful and popular tool among businesses and organizations when dealing with spreading brand messages and reputation, however there are new problems that arise with this new media. “Social media is immediate, pervasive, and widely available, and it appeals to hundreds of millions of people” (Luttrell 159). Because of this there are entirely different strategies and tactics professionals must use in order to address responses to crises.

Stop the issue before it turns into a bigger crisis.

IMG_3730 (1)

According to Konrad Palubicki from Edelman Digital in Seattle, Washington, there are five stages professionals should go through when dealing with crisis communication. These include the following:

1. Prepare in advance – Come up with a plan. Develop key messages, objectives, procedures, guidelines and a crisis audit that can be used when a crisis occurs. This information can be released quickly if a crisis ever occurs. A website could even be created to launch specifically when a crisis occurs. Being prepared also means monitoring media coverage of a company or brand and tracking conversations to plan for a crisis.

2. Isolate the origin – Know the cause of the crisis, where it was initiated, and what media platforms conversations are taking place in order to know how to respond to it.

3. Evaluate the impact – Determine whether those directly affected by the crisis is impacted more or those whose attitudes would be influenced by the company or organization is, and then respond fast and impose tactics needed to address the specific situation.Just waiting a few hours to respond could be extremely detrimental to the company’s reputation (Luttrell 159-161).

They want to hear:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.32.03 PM

(Neumann 2012)

4. Mitigate the crisis – Continue sending messages through all channels after initial response and provide real-time updates. Be honest and straightforward and establish an in-house crisis management center (Luttrell 162). Show transparency:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.32.14 PM

(Neumann 2012)

5. Learn from the crisis – Hold a post-crisis meeting and analyze all messages through all channels that occurred in order to prevent the crisis from happening again in the future or coming up with a better way to manage the crisis or similar ones if were to occur again (Luttrell 162).

Things to keep track of:

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.31.55 PM

(Neumann 2012)


JetBlue Airlines is experiencing the negative side of social media in crisis management as of late. A passenger named Lisa Carter-Knight was banned from the flight after she tweeted about an incident between the pilot and passengers. In response, a representative of the company said that if they feel a customer is not complying with safety regulations or causes some kind of conflict, boarding can be denied and the customer would get a refund and have to take another airline. However, Knight was not exhibiting unruly behavior. She tweeted about the pilot accusing passengers of accusing the pilot being intoxicated. More than 1,300 tweets were shared about the situation, which led to thousands of retweets, comments, shares, and more than 190 articles written by publishers like CNN and USA Today (Winchel 2014). Lesson learned: companies do not benefit from taking action against customers who complain about the company.


The CDC on the Ebola outbreak situation, however, is a good example of the right way to handle crisis communication. They initiated a plan fast and held a press conference where the director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, addressed the case calmly and supportively. They have used social media like Twitter to answer questions and put out information to keep the public calm. Communication is monitored by using the hashtag #ebola every time. On their homepage, they have a huge banner that announces updates about ebola and the first diagnosis, and on their website they have a page that included lots of information about ebola. This is such a serious case in crisis communication and the CDC must meet the goals of keeping the public from fear and panic by educating them and constantly communicating, and by preventing the pandemic (Agnes 2014).

Questions to consider:

1. How could the JetBlue representative have handled the situation differently? Should a media expert have addressed the situation? Was it fair that the woman was banned from the flight just for sharing information on a social media site?

2. How should companies treat customer service differently with the use of social media?

3. How else can the CDC keep the public calm besides the initiatives they have already taken?

4. Is social media more useful for companies and businesses or is it more harmful when dealing with crisis communication?

Works Cited

Agnes, Melissa. “Analyzing the CDC’s Crisis Communication In U.S. Ebola Outbreak.” Agnes + Day. Agnes + Day Inc, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. <http%3A%2F%2Fagnesday.com%2Fanalyzing-cdc-crisis-communication-us-ebola-outbreak%2F>.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 9: Crisis Management on the Social Sphere.”Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Neumann, Amy. “5 Steps for Crisis Management Using Social Media.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-neumann/5-steps-for-crisis-manage_b_1791673.html&gt;.

Winchel, Beki. “JetBlue and Comcast Show the Downside of Quashing Customer Complaints.” Ragan.com. Ragan Communications, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/48860.aspx?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Savicom&utm_campaign=JetBlue%27s%20bad%20publicity;%20New%20app%20for%20writers;%20Adored%20co-workers;%206%20books%20for%20speakers;%20and%20much%20more&utm_term=http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/48860.aspx&utm_content=jmorales@cmasolutions.com&gt;.


3 thoughts on “A Blessing or a Curse?

  1. I would have to agree with you in that social media serves as a very effective role in relaying messages of crises. Crisis communication is crucial, especially when rumors began to form when outbreak occurs. The Ebola outbreak is one that is relevant and currently spreading like wildfire. Personally, I’m not sure if the public should be as panicked as social media is telling us to be… is this just another government “stunt”? I found myself wondering. I’m sure now that it isn’t, that it is a serious problem that the CDC is trying to control, but I think a lot of people are overreacting at the same time. As chaotic and confusing as the Ebola scare may be, I think the CDC should step up and clear the air in a sense so that we the people are not reeking havoc on an outbreak that is either under control or running rapid (which I doubt). What are your thoughts on how “#ebola” is being handled?


  2. I think that social media can provide great customer service for companies looking to serve to their customers through this platform, if handled and done correctly. I’ve had experiences in which I have tweeted companies complaining about an experience I had and they will tweet back with an email address so I can contact them and further explain what happened.
    I think in instances like this it works because the customer is not explaining publicly what went wrong and the company is not ignoring the customer either. If a company can give an alternative and more private way to discuss the situation, the company keeps it’s reputation and the customer is also happy because the company is providing customer service by answering to their complaints. Usually during times like this the company will also provide some type of coupon or deal to keep the customer even after a negative experience.
    If companies follow a similar procedure like the one I explained, that’s when companies on social media can work correctly.


  3. I was just talking about this with my mom earlier today – social media can be so beneficial at times, but it can be detrimental. Social media platforms provide a great outlet for consumers to voice their opinions and feelings. Companies can see first-hand what the public is saying/thinking about them. Social media platforms host real-time conversations between consumers and companies, allowing for in-depth, honest conversations.

    The Ebola craze is a great case to analyze crisis communication in motion. Once Ebola entered our country, social media sites blew up. I’ve personally posted numerous posts regarding Ebola on my Twitter and Facebook. I find most of my news on my phone via Twitter (mostly CNN) and share these stories on my feed. Communication via social media sites allows companies, like the CDC, and our government the opportunity to pay attention to what the public is saying and implement tactics that’ll fulfill their needs/wants. The CDC did not do a fantastic job in the beginning of the America-Ebola craze, but are learning and implementing better crisis management tactics. The CDC has been open and honest about their mistakes, taking full responsibility for the many faults that health professionals and patients have experienced. I’m seeing a shift in crisis communication from the CDC and our government as each new Ebola case in the U.S. erupts. I think that social media sites are a great source for the CDC to communicate with the public, as well as through other media like print and television. I’m not sure the CDC will ever be able to put Americans at ease about Ebola, but I do think they’ve been reacting strategically in the NYC Ebola case. Really, we need the CDC to act before an Ebola victim needs them to REact.


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