How Crisis Communicators Rely on Social Media

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Mar. 18, 2013 12:00 am  

A mobile application allows Entergy users to get updates on where power outages are occurring and the estimated time for when those utilities should be restored.

Human Touch

Tweeting alone wouldn’t have been enough for Entergy during the winter outage.

That is why you saw the company open up information centers to customers. Entergy CEO Hugh McDonald held press briefings to help keep the public updated.

There’s even a documented case of McDonald showing up at a customer’s house after receiving an angry letter, which underscores an important point about communicating during a difficult time: people matter.

Sometimes emotional responses from customers on social media underscored that point. Information might be traveling through machines, but on each end of the exchange, there were people.

“Hey, after four or five days of no power, all emotions go out the window,” Reagan Taylor, the Malvern resident, said. “It gets old.”

Entergy reported more than 6,000 downloads of its app that week. It received 600 messages on Twitter and Web traffic tripled. Those totals represent a significant online presence for a company still developing its social media approach, but in reality, it’s a small fraction of the people who were impacted by the storm and outages.

There are multiple options in a company’s communications toolbox. Finding a way to maximize them all matters.

“Using Twitter and our online presence was a valuable tool, but not the only vehicle we should be using,” Munsell said. “People still want to communicate directly with a person. But there are enough people seeking interaction online that it’s important to make that part of what we do.”

Peacock echoed those thoughts. Human interaction — putting a face on the situation — is still critical when things aren’t going as planned.

Even in the case of a Twitter feed it needs to feel like humans are behind it. No matter how immediate or accurate the information coming from the feed is, customers need more.

“It’s even more important to have a human component to your response,” Peacock said. “You need to emote compassion when it’s needed. ... You look at some of the folks online that have done a good job of that over the years and it’s the ones that have had someone that is communicating a consistent human voice that have been the most effective.”



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