In a Pinch: How to have grace under pressure in PR

In a crisis situation, information needs to be provided in a quick, efficient manner with consideration to the people who are involved in the incident. Some of the hallmarks of a great Social media plan are quick response, honesty, sensitivity, timely details and being present to respond to questions. Social media is how a majority of people keep up with current events, see the graphic below for the active users of social media.

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One of the biggest issues that came up during Hurricane Harvey was the lack of research done. Countless social media hoaxes gained traction because, in the midst of a storm like this, people don’t have time to fact check things.

People are tweeting pictures of Sharks on the roads, and former President Obama handing out food at shelters. In most cases, these aren’t dangerous things, but the show that social media has the power to blow things out of proportion quickly, and it reminds people how important it is to only tweet or share things you know to be true.

Another big issue was the controversy surrounding Joel Osteen, and the closing of his church to victims of Harvey.  “Osteen came under fire after the church posted a notice on social media Sunday that the building was closed because of “severe flooding” following Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall Friday night and has pounded the Houston area with historic rainfall,” according to an article on USA Today. Though it was a “miscommunication” according to Osteen’s PR team, it shows the impact of posting on social media during a major crisis. The wrong words can cause irreparable damage.

The power of social media is undeniable. One of the best uses of social media came from rescue attempts. Lives were saved by people retweeting people’s messages and getting information to the rescue teams in a timely manner. The San Diego Union Tribune had an amazing article on 5 different ways social media saved lives during the hurricane. People came together and used all these various platforms to get people reunited and safe.

Outside of that, social media has allowed countless people to encourage those who are not near to donate to the rebuilding and charity. Kevin Hart, a famous comedian, donated and challenged other celebrities to use their influence to help send donations to Texas. Though not everyone may agree about what charities to donate to, social media is giving people the power to put actions behind their words, and make a difference from near or far.

Looking at Hurricane Harvey, we see that though there are some shortcomings for social media, it has proven to be a force for good. Lives were saved because of it, families reunited, and so much more. Sometimes we forget that Facebook can be used for more than mindless scrolling and GIFs.

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