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Companies in Crisis Still Mostly Ignore Social Media

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The majority of businesses are failing to use a valuable crisis communication tool, new research shows.

A study by consulting and tax advisory firm PwC discovered that 57 percent of companies do not officially use social media as a crisis management resource.

Phil Samson, principal in PwC's Risk Assurance practice and the firm's Business Continuity Management service leader, said while some firms are starting to incorporate social media into their crisis and risk management plans, most are still hesitant to use it to connect with clients and other shareholders.

[Three Steps to Handling a Crisis]

"There is some uncertainty around adopting social media as companies are weighing the possible risks and legal complications, and are not seeing how it can be used to help expedite communications during a crisis," Samson said. "As social media's use in an organization becomes more pervasive and management grows more comfortable with its use, (business continuity management) programs will naturally begin to adopt social media for internal and external crisis communications."

The study found that for the companies that are using social media — most often Facebook and Twitter— in times of crisis, not all are seeing how it is helping. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed are modestly leveraging it as a tool, but not necessarily seeing improvements in their capabilities.

The research discovered that just 8 percent of the companies using social media during emergencies believe it has become an enabler for their organization to identify and respond to crisis events.

"We're telling our clients that they must first look through their crisis communication plan for ways to use social media as an effective communication channel to employees, key third parties, customers and stakeholders," Samson said. "Then, they should look at the more likely crisis and risk scenarios and determine if social media could be used to facilitate crisis identification, internal and external communications, and recovery coordination efforts."

The study was based on surveys of approximately 300 companies worldwide.

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Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.