Ike Pigott and I recently gave a seminar on Using Social Media in a Crisis, and one of the participants asked me this follow-up question:
I'm wondering if you can point me to some resources that talk about how valuable a website is in getting information to customers/key audiences (crisis situations and otherwise). I'm looking for statistics or well-written articles that I can incorporate into a presentation on the importance of a strong website.
My first thought is that is it critical for a company or organization to be the first and best source of information in a crisis.
And my second thought was of a recent post by one of my new favorite bloggers, Chris Turner. When tornadoes ripped through Jackson, Tenn., earlier this month, and devastated Union University, he found that he had a personal connection:
I have several friends on staff or faculty there including news director Tim Ellsworth. I called to check on him about 30 minutes after Union took a direct hit, told him the university's web site was down and asked what his strategy was for getting word to parents and others. We decided that I'd draft a brief news story that went out to Baptist Press, an AP-type news organization – Union is a Baptist-affiliated school – but I also began checking some blogs and discovered within minutes after the tornado hit that my friend and blogger Steve McCoy had posted. I included a comment on the site and posted the info from the news release I'd just written. Steve's site became an place where others who had children at Union posted the latest info they were receiving.
I went to take a look at both Tim Ellsworth's site, as well as Steve McCoy's, and you can see right away how important these blogs became to the community of people that cared about Union University and its students.
It also brought out something that tends to be a universal theme. The main university web site was down.
Imagine if the university had a plan to provide up-to-the-minute information on its own site instead of needing a good Samaritan like Tim to provide it on his personal blog? You see in his latest posts that this incident, and the requisite communication challenge, wore him out.
I think that examples like these, and there are many others, are proof positive that an organization needs a robust solution to handle crisis communication.
What do you think? Do you have any examples that answer our participant's question about how important it is to have such a Website/blog/publishing platform?