Social Media Savvy is a “Must Have” During a Crisis


A few months ago in early February, a Congressman attended a meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee.  At a little after 2PM, he cast a vote on an issue before the committee. Just shy of a half hour later, the Web site Gawker posted a shirtless photograph of the married Congressman that was itself posted to Craig’s List in correspondence with a woman who had placed an ad under the category of “Women Seeking Men”.  In response to inquiries, there was a statement that it was believed that the Congressman’s account had been hacked.  At a little after 2:30, I saw the story posted on Facebook.  By 3:30, approached by media about the matter the Congressman was quoted as saying that he needed to speak with his wife.  By 5 PM, just less than three hours after casting his last vote and only 2 and a half hours after the story appeared on the Internet, the Congressman was no longer a Congressman.  In a breathtaking span of less than three hours, a crisis unfolded on the Internet and consumed a Congressional career in the speed of its path.  In short, crisis communications is not the crisis communications of your father – not even of your older brother.  In only 5 years, social media has changed crisis communications entirely.

The Case of the Shirtless Congressman is dramatic.  Many crises are less so, but they do not necessarily have to be.  In fact, under the circumstances, there is perhaps little that could have been done to mitigate the damage from this virtual tsunami.  This one just represents how much things of changed.  But it also says something about the need for involvement.

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