Social Media Use in Crisis and Risk Communication

Cover of Social Media Use in Crisis and Risk Communication

Emergencies, Concerns and Awareness

Synopsis

Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xiv
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Part 1 Using Social Media in Risks and Crises

Abstract

This chapter analyses the Norwegian Twitter-sphere during and in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Norway on 22 July 2011. Based on a collection of 2.2 million tweets representing the Twitter-sphere during the period 20 July–28 August 2011, the chapter seeks answers to how the micro-blogging services aided in creating situation awareness (SA) related to the emergency event, what role hashtags played in that process and who the dominant crisis communicators were. The chapter is framed by theories and previous research on SA and social media use in the context of emergency events. The findings reveal that Twitter was important in establishing SA both during and in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, that hashtags were of limited value in this process during the critical phase, and that unexpected actors became key communicators.

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Abstract

This chapter examines how those directly affected by the terror attack on Utøya in Norway on 22 July 2011 used social media to cope with the trauma. Through interviews with eight survivors and a study of their Facebook walls during the first month after the shooting, the chapter sets out to answer how they tell and re-tell the trauma on Facebook. In what way does their re-telling of the terror event give it meaning? With Narrative Therapy as its inspiration, this chapter studies different themes and stories on the Facebook walls, what is told about the event, its effects and responses to it. The meaning derived from the trauma is a story of national unity, democratic values and the redefining of Norway as a multicultural society. As for the perpetrator, he is written out of the story.

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Abstract

This chapter analyses the Norwegian authorities’ presence on Twitter during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks. Twitter activity by two official institutions is analysed in particular, namely, the blood bank at Oslo University Hospital and the Norwegian Police Security Services (PST). Our findings show that the Norwegian authorities were almost completely absent on Twitter during the critical hours of the terrorist attack, and that there was no coordination and synchronisation of communication from the authorities. This official silence allowed the diffusion of speculation and misinformation to take place; these were neither corrected nor addressed, as the analysed PST case shows. In contrast, the blood bank used Twitter to mobilise blood donors to address an acute problem: a shortage of blood to treat casualties. The chapter concludes by offering recommendations to the authorities for future major incidents.

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Abstract

The chapter addresses the question of how crisis and emergency communicators in the justice (police) and health sector in Norway reflect on their use – or lack of use – of social media during the terror crisis on 22 July 2011. We examine how these communicators in the years following the crisis have developed their use of social media to optimise their and the public’s awareness of similar crises. Our semi-structured interviews with key emergency managers and responders display how the terrorist-induced crisis in 2011 was a wake-up call for communicators in the police and the health sector. They reflect on the significance, strengths and weaknesses of social media in the management of crises such as this one.

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Abstract

22 July 2011, saw the biggest domestic terror event in Norway since World War II. On this day, a right-wing terrorist placed a bomb in front of the Norwegian government building, where the prime minister had his office at the time. Later, the same perpetrator dressed up as a policeman and tricked his way into a political youth camp, where 69 mostly young people were killed. The present case study involves the leading national online news provider, VG, whose website, VG Nett, was Norway’s most-read online news site at the time of the attack. The study addresses the research gap of how news workers and managers see the potential of the affordances of digital media during crisis events. Furthermore, the study looks at how two different discourses of professionalism, the occupational and the organisational, informed journalists’ use of technological and social media affordances during this terror event, and at how online journalists and management reflect upon and continue to refine these approaches five years later. This study stresses the importance of a clear understanding of the decision-making processes that actually guide the handling of those affordances during a crisis event. Ultimately, this study questions not the perceived tension between the two discourses of professionalism, but their relative impact upon domestic crisis journalism in the technological realm.

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Abstract

This chapter examines how established media – that is, print, TV and radio sources which pre-existed the popularisation of social media – use social media to disseminate content. Specifically it examines the manner in which three UK media sources – BBC News, The Guardian and the Daily Mail – used Twitter during the 2014–2015 Ebola crisis. It asks five key questions concerning: the balance between factual reporting and opinion or comment; the degree to which it shifted attention to specific events within the context of the outbreak; whether the dialogical potential of social media was exploited; the degree to which social media acted as a signpost to more detailed information elsewhere, or existed as independent content; and the degree of media reflexivity. It concludes that established media used this new technology within their existing paradigms for reporting rather than exploiting some of its more innovative characteristics.

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Abstract

The 2013 Central European floods were not only one of the most severe natural disasters in Austria in the last decades, but also constituted a landmark in crisis communication. For the first time, social media and online newspapers were important news channels, creating a need for new crisis communication strategies. Based on 20 semi-structured interviews and an analysis of online data, we reconstruct in this chapter the online communication of different stakeholders such as the authorities, rescue organisations and journalists during this emergency situation. The study shows that the use of social media was a weak point in official crisis communication. Through detailed analyses of information flows and the requirements of different stakeholders, the study reveals new challenges and possibilities for crisis communication in the digital age.

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Part 2 Developing a Tool for Crisis Communicators

Abstract

This chapter describes how researchers and developers may improve the design of technical innovations for crisis communicators by testing how user-friendly the innovation is for its intended end users. In the RESCUE project, a tool for social media information gathering was developed. During this process, tool usability was thoroughly tested. Good usability allows the user to complete tasks and achieve goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. The purpose of the usability testing was to strive for a tool that is easy to use during demanding circumstances and contributes to a high level of situation awareness (SA) among users. SA is about being aware of what is happening around you – during, for example, emergency assignments – and what this means for your on-going work tasks. The main focus of this chapter is to describe how usability testing was applied throughout the tool development process, from the pre-production planning phase to the final phase. As a part of this, the tool features are described.

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Abstract

Technical solutions can be important when key communicators take on the task of making sense of social media flows during crises. However, to provide situation awareness during high-stress assignments, usability problems must be identified and corrected. In usability studies, where researchers investigate the user-friendliness of a product, several types of data gathering methods can be combined. Methods may include subjective (surveys and observations) and psychophysiological (e.g. skin conductance and eye tracking) data collection. This chapter mainly focuses on how the latter type can provide detailed clues about user-friendliness. Results from two studies are summarised. The tool tested is intended to help communicators and journalists with monitoring and handling social media content during times of crises.

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Part 3 Recommendations for Social Media Use in Risks and Crises

Abstract

Using and understanding social media in the context of networked publics enhances crisis communication. This chapter describes models and ideas for integrating social media into the communication strategies of rescue organisations. The authors develop their recommendations for the use of social media by these organisations from both a summary and comparison of communication processes during the 2013 Central European floods in Austria, and from the perspective of an organisation actively using social media in the chosen model region of Alkoven. The chapter presents basic recommendations, recommendations inspired by content strategy and recommendations based on web and social media literacy in order to support the further development of crisis communication in the digital age.

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Abstract

The chapter provides recommendations for key communicators’ social media use during pandemic threats. Recommendations are based on findings from two sets of case studies during the 2014–2015 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa: the use by authorities in UK and Norway during the 2014–2015 West African Ebola outbreak; and the use by established media in the UK.

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Abstract

This chapter summarises the findings of a case study on social media activity during the 22 July 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway. Based on these findings and on theories and previous research on the role of social media in situation awareness (SA) configuration during crisis situations, the chapter offers seven recommendations for key communicators in official crisis management and response institutions, journalistic institutions, NGOs and others: (1) acknowledge social media as important and master monitoring and management of features across social media; (2) synchronise communication and establish a standard operating procedure (SOP); (3) establish and make known a joint social media emergency account; (4) participate, interact and take the lead; (5) be aware of non-hashtagged content; (6) implement verification tools and practices and (7) engage with and learn from celebrities.

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Index

Pages 297-308
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Cover of Social Media Use in Crisis and Risk Communication
DOI
10.1108/9781787562691
Publication date
2018-10-01
Editors
ISBN
978-1-78756-269-1