About half an hour into our nightly Grand Theft Auto session, The Beard jumped from his indented seat on the couch exclaiming, “Holy S@#!” thus prompting a return jump from my own heavily indented spot with a surprised, “what the F@#! Jack?”
Turns out that his outburst of exclamation wasn’t without reason, for we had discovered that not five minutes earlier on distant shores one of our own beloved sports stars was almost aggressively mauled by a hulking great beast of a marine animal.
I refer to the incident where Aussie surfing legend Mick Fanning nearly had his leg become breakfast for a bloody Great White shark, a Sydney Morning Herald full description of which can be found here.
If the situation itself wasn’t disturbing enough, consider the fact the entire shot was broadcast via live feed straight to numerous news sites and transferred directly to popular social media platforms Twitter and Facebook for the world to witness.
Thankfully no harm came to our Mick, but the Beard and I were left with a looming sense of foreboding. We saw this as it happened. What kind of social media crisis may have followed if teeth were to have actually found their mark?
Periscope had this to say:
“The way that it emerged and trended while the rest of the world was awake, hearing news happen to local identities through those sources is quite interesting.”
“That could have gone so south so quickly and nobody could have done anything to stop it.”
“I heard they’re doing a new Mick Fanning special at fish and chip shops, battered flake!”
Okay, so that last one I just decided to throw in to lighten the mood a bit… but the answer to our question became clear: there is no one way to prevent or predict a crisis from unfolding as it happens on social media. Taken out of the celebrity context and placed into a professional one, the same can also be said. There is nothing that can be physically done to stop a recorded Skype session between work colleagues turning into a live exhibition of a heart attack, nor is there an airtight way to prevent a member of the office divulging confidential company information with a slip of the fingers on Facebook (courtesy of a stronger-than-usual long island iced tea on any given night.)
Crisis communication is a touchy subject where many err toward the side of caution with regards to preparing for the worst, and rightly so.
The incident in 2011 where Motocross star Marco Simoncelli was unfortunately killed in a racetrack accident, was captured live and broadcast directly to YouTube prompting immediate and widespread reaction to the truth that viewers had just witnessed a man die on the spot.
No person, company, crowd or organisation can prepare for a social media crisis, the only ability they have to calm the situation is to clearly and concisely report the facts as they unfold.