Crisis Communications at the Speed of Air Travel

sfocrashI like to impress upon people the idea that social media has sped up crisis communications. Where we used to talk about a newscycle, then a 24/7 newscycle, we now have a ten-second news cycle. Ten seconds is about how long it takes for me to pull my phone out, snap a picture and tweet it out. (I tested it, honest!)

The classic example of this type of news breaking had always been US Airways Flight 1549, which crash-landed in the Hudson River. A passenger on a ferry snapped the famous picture of people standing on the wing of the plane, awaiting rescue. That picture was posted to Twitter before FDNY boats were in the water. Insanely fast for the times.

This past week, we were reminded of how fast news breaks by the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214. A crisis communications consulting firm for the air industry released a phenomenal report detailing how social media shaped the disaster, and that’s where I’m pulling a lot of this post from. (You can find the excellent SlideShare of their presentation here, and their blog post here.)

This was the first mention of the crash anywhere online:

Now, if you notice the timestamp on that tweet and are familiar with the timeline of the crash, you’ll notice that the tweet was posted less than one minute after the crash. Simpliflying says thirty seconds post-crash. We now have a 30-second media cycle.

And don’t think that first impressions can be swallowed up by more famous people. None other than Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook stardom posted that she was supposed to be on that flight. A Samsung executive who was actually on the flight posted images of the burning plane just 18 minutes post-crash. But Krista, our original tweeter, was still the center of attention. According to Simpliflying, she’d been interviewed more than 4,000 times in the next 24 hours.

Many of the reporters reached out to her via Twitter. I’ve talking in the past about how reporters are using social media as sources, so think how far ahead of the story you’d be if you had some of those reporters in your Twitter lists and were monitoring them.

Definitely check out the Simpliflying post in the meantime, because I’ll be talking about how Asiana Airlines totally blew it (and how we make the same mistake) tomorrow.


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