24647 Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model

Lucinda Austin, MA, Strategic Communications and Marketing Division, ICF Macro, Rockville, MD and Brooke Fisher Liu, Ph.D, Department of Communication, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis:  How should organizations monitor and respond to crises through social media? This presentation will introduce research developing and refining the first theoretical model that helps crisis managers decide if and when to respond to influential social media outlets: the social-mediated crisis communication model (SMCC model). This model fills the gap in current research on digital/social media that are almost entirely atheoretical, limiting predictive tools available to practitioners for managing crises online. Grounded in blog-mediated crisis communication, opinion leadership, word-of-mouth communication, and rumor/crisis response research, the SMCC model helps crisis managers decide if and when to respond to influential social media through monitoring the online conversations.

Methods:  First, the model explains how information is transmitted online and offline among key players: influential bloggers, influential blog followers, mass media, and organizations represented by crisis managers. Nine propositions predict how these various stakeholders interact. Second, the model explains how crisis mangers can identify influential social media outlets before, during, and after crises through applying a tracking system that includes three categories of metrics: outputs (e.g., number of posts by valence), outtakes (e.g., third-party endorsements), and outcomes (e.g., citizens’ awareness of a particular social media outlet). Finally, the model identifies strategies for managing influential social media during a crisis organized by crisis phase and taking into account the crisis source, crisis type, and crisis magnitude.

Results:  The presentation will cover how the SMMC model was developed and has been refined on the basis of in-depth interviews with 40 American Red Cross crisis managers and 22 college students as well as experiments with college students that currently are being conducted. In addition, the presentation will cover how the SMCC model will provide insights into analyzing several recent crises that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have responded to, such as the Chinese drywall and perchlorate issues. 

Conclusions: Finally, the presentation will cover how the model can be applied to issue monitoring, such as identifying influential social media outlets for the National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures.

Implications for research and/or practice:  This presentation will identify communication strategies for managing influential social media during a public health crisis.