Crisis Communication in the Digital World

Post by Tracy Harris Green, Director of Communications and Development, Oldham County Schools

Crisis communication has changed a lot with the popularity of social media and reliance on those sites for breaking news. Twitter is my go-to news source; many people use Facebook for the same. As a school public relations professional, it means I face a quandary during crisis situations: put info out to the whole wide world, or know that as soon as the media are on the story, THEY’LL post it.

For us, it is a case-by-case analysis for which we’ve created a flowchart (happy to share; email me) to help determine if a situation warrants a social media post. We’re still working through hurdles — for instance, say a school is evacuated because the fire alarm is sounding. The cause on one day (well, several) was a malfunctioning ventilation hood in a science lab. On another, it was a bomb threat. Obviously conveying the latter situation was something we needed to do on social media — but the former was not. Finding ways to solidify those distinctions is something we are still working on — and if you have input, please share!

I learned a lot about crisis communication by following several districts during all our winter weather last year. This could be a great topic for a KYSPRA conference, too!

That said, I want to share a link to an update on Facebook algorithms that may shape your decisions in communicating crisis info via social media in the future. Both relate to links on your page that direct users away from Facebook and are designed to improve user experience. This article explains the algorithm changes and what it may mean for us as school public relations professionals.

Related post by the National School Public Relations Association: Always, Always Have a Social Media Plan

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