It is important to be prepared for crises. A great deal of communication preparedness has to do with training. Crises require communicators to have dynamic abilities, flexible mentalities, and expertise. You cannot just plan for the possibility of a crisis– you need to practice.
There is a great deal of literature in crisis communication research that argues for the use of social media during crises. This means we need to practice our crisis communication using social media. But, I am critical of this idea. I am not sure how useful social media can be when a crisis is uncertain. I would like to see how well it works.
Here is a hypothetical (i.e. not true) situation: There is a possible chemical leak of a deadly material in a research lab at the university where you work. The lab exploded, and is now on fire.
Your informant told you that it looks serious, and he is generally pretty reliable. He said that it might have been intentional, but this is speculation. He also tells you that the lab with the leak was studying a new and more volatile version of a Novichok biological weapon. You do not want to go to the scene because you might die. This is all the information you know.
Your crisis communication team is dispersed. You are alone with your computer/smartphone in a relatively safe place in the city. You do not know how safe it is to go outside. The media is knocking on your door (in the form of a flood of emails and phone calls) to get information about the explosion, but they do not appear to know about the Novichok yet.
How would you use social media in this situation? What social media would you use? How would you use it to collaborate internally with your crisis team?
For my classmates in our communications class: Using the comment section of this blog, collaborate to create a communications action response. I will post situation developments throughout.
Edit: Having completed this short exercise it is clear that practice really is necessary for good crisis communication. A good social media platform is also key. Finally, having assignments beforehand is very important.