The Role of a Social Media Communicator During a Crisis: A conversation with @Chrisbrogan

by Kate Brodock on 18 November 2011

Posted in: Case Study,Discussion,From the Field

Chris Brogan brought up a good question on his blog earlier today - using myself and our SU social media team as an example.  ”What’s the role of a social media communications team during a crisis situation like alleged sex abuse scandals? What do you think is an appropriate amount of content about a story that obviously has national attention right now versus the “go back to business as usual” approach?”

You can read his full response here, but this was my comment:

Thanks for bringing up this issue, as it’s a good one. I’d like to take a few sentences (ok… more than that) to let you know how we and the rest of the social media team thought through this situation.

One role I played was to make sure my team had direction in terms of how we should be moving forward as the day progressed. I highlighted several things to the team at the beginning of the day, some of them specific to this issue: This will be at the forefront of the SU community’s mind today and we shouldn’t try to gloss over it, or pretend that it’s business as usual, and; we need to be very careful with what content we put forward, as there is still a lot of unsettled information flying around out there.

In other words: Let’s try to use internal communications that have been vetted by the people closest to the situation and remember that this is by far the issue of the day.

After a discussion around noon today (several hours into monitoring  and gauging sentiment) we choose two specific “other” pieces of content to put out: The results of our Class Presidential race (something the specific candidates have put a lot of work into and ARE focused on today) and welcoming a large group (500+) of prospective students to our campus who are here on a weekend visit.  I’ll also note the tone of each of those responses as they were carefully chosen (and well so I might add, but I’m biased and think I have a rocking team underneath me).  Everything else we’ve placed on the back burner.

As for my own account,  my role depends on a lot, and I think it should be looked at carefully.

I’ll say - and this isn’t an excuse - few people in my circle on twitter know of my current position, and the general SU community is only slowly learning of my position.  Therefore, I know the eyes are all at @syracuseu for this information, and very few will be turning to me (and this is something I hope will shift over time, but it’s the fact right now).

Even with that in mind, I was very mindful of my tweets today.  Obviously I wanted (and needed) to post the Chancellors comments, especially since I was the one up and available at the time, and I also RTed one of our student team member’s posts concerning Boeheim’s reaction to the situation.  I answered you in between a flurry of phone calls, and I chose to respond to one particular off-subject tweet, but, because it’s not obvious, I’ll highlight that those two people are both Syracuse employees and currently living through the same thing the rest of the SU community is…. I felt it was actually quote fitting to connect with them on that level during this and I’m glad I did (many people on my feed may not have recognized that, but my goal was to connect with them directly).  And as for foursquare… well, let’s be honest, you just don’t like people linking foursquare to Twitter :-) So that one doesn’t count!

Other than that, I WILL tell you one big role that a social media manager has, and that’s to make sure their team, the ones who are actually the voice of the organization, has the tools they need, and my time today was much more valuable working internally, and continuing in my overall role (scheduled meetings, future goals etc)….I simply didn’t have a whole lot of Twitter face-time today…..and I’m not sure that if I had had more time I would have necessarily flocked to Twitter…. however, this is a very interesting issue…. should that channel now or in the future be part of the higher strategy of communication and how do you prioritize that? As I mentioned, if I begin to be seen as more or a voice for SU communications in general, this will and should shift, but right now, the already well-established channels held my focus for the day….

Again, great conversation, I’m happy to chat more with you about the process, and would love to hear what others think.  Sorry if this was a little….wordy :-)


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