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Using Social Media during a Crisis

Posted on 08/10/2011 by Kristie VanAuken

A couple of weeks ago, we had a dubious “first.” Our electrical utility vault flooded. Nearly five inches of rain poured down the night before overwhelming our multiple and redundant systems to prevent such an occurrence. Dang!
The crazy thing about crisis communications is that each scenario is completely different. We had no power (computers, chargers, internet connections- gone, poof!) and we had a potentially life threatening clean-up.
But we also had each other and a practiced system to react to a situation such as this.
As the chief communicator at CAK, I knew that we had to get organized fast, so we could provide accurate information to our Customers, our team, our partners and the media, who of course, inform the general public. The news cycle has condensed to micro-seconds because of the massive proliferation of social media usage on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. News like this can travel at an explosive pace. Although this time, we had about 45 minutes to react to the situation, a real luxury these days.
Our strategy was to focus on mainstream media first. That may seem strange to some of you who know how active we are in the social universe. Mainstream media however, still have a much greater reach than social media platforms. We had to clearly communicate the what, where, when, why and how of this unfolding story to multiple stakeholders very quickly. So, we wrote a release (from a remote location), sent it to our local media then got busy sharing the same message with our social media audiences, driving everyone to our website for the latest updates.
Interestingly, after the initial presser, much of the mainstream media found links to our updates on Twitter. And, we were able to showcase some of our local heros who addressed the electrical problems and got CAK up and running again in only three hours, on Facebook.
What we know for sure, is that next time, and there always is a next time, the situation will be different. We may do things differently next time, who knows. What I do know is that we have an exceptional communications team here at CAK that helped keep us on message during the power outage and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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Kristie Van Auken

Kristie VanAuken
Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing & Communications Officer

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