Maybe it's because it's more like story-telling, but two University of Missouri researchers found Facebook appears to be a better place for crisis communication than the mainstream media. A discussion on The Holmes Report of the MU research notes that "Facebook posts written in a narrative style were more effective than posts written in a non-narrative format. Narrative style is chronological and focuses more on story-telling rather than fact listing."
The research by Seoyeon Hong, a doctoral candidate, and Bokyung Kim, a professor at Rowan University and a former MU doctoral student, gave participants news stories about organizational crises at two fictional universities, then measured their feelings about the severity of the simulated crises. Participants were then shown posts from the universities' Facebook accounts with additional information and messages from the schools. Hong found that "following the Facebook posts, attitudes toward the universities were significantly more positive than before participants read the posts. She also found that participants felt the crises were less severe following the Facebook posts."
"Many studies have already shown how important crisis management is for organizations," Hong says. "This study shows that Facebook can be a valuable tool for public relations professionals when working to solve or lessen the severity of a crisis. Because Facebook is very personal for its users, well-thought-out crisis management messages can be effective at reaching users on a personal level, which is a powerful way to persuade people to a cause."
"Hong also found," The Holmes Report account adds, "that Facebook posts written in a narrative style were more effective than posts written in a non-narrative format. Narrative style is chronological and focuses more on story-telling rather than fact listing."
Of course, an organization would have to have an identity and followers on Facebook before a crisis to capitalize on its presence there should a crisis strike. This seems another indication to publicists of how social media are, and, indeed, need to be, included in today's new media atmosphere.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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