Crisis? What crisis?

Spending time recently with a client re-writing their crisis plan I was asked how to define a ‘social media crisis’.

Not for the first time.

There is, as I have argued before, no such thing. A crisis is a crisis.

When was the last TV crisis? Radio crisis? Or luxury magazine crisis, for that matter?

Regrettably the term continues to live on in the popular imagination. There’s certainly plenty of interest in the term on Google:


What then is a crisis? There are many definitions. Steven Fink believes a crisis can only be classified a crisis if it satisifies all four of these questions:

  • Is the situation a precursor that risks escalating in intensity?
  • Does it risk coming under close scrutiny?
  • Will it interfere with normal business operations?
  • Will it jeopardise our public image or bottom line?

This seems an excellent way to approach the question.

If a crisis can be summed up in one word, in my experience it would be ‘Paralysis’. Organisational paralysis, that is, at the most senior level.

The massive majority of so-called ‘crises’ sloshing around in social media are issues and incidents of one sort or another, not crises.

Pin pricks and jabs, not paralysis.

Let’s hope that sharp downturn in searches for the term in late 2014 is permanent.


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