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Study Confirms: Facebook Is a Valuable Crisis Communications Tool

Last month, our readers were surprised to discover that most brands remain hesitant to use social media for crisis communications. Perhaps the results of this study from the University of Missouri School of Journalism will convince them: turns out that “posting public relations information on Facebook during a time of crisis can improve the overall image of the organization that is experiencing the crisis.”

Shocking, we know.

The study compared two fictional universities; participants read news stories about “organizational crises” occurring at these schools before viewing Facebook posts from their official pages which offered “additional information and messages directly from the universities”. Researchers measured participants’ impressions of these fake schools after both sessions and found that the Facebook posts were more effective in improving their perceptions and downplaying the severity of the crises at hand.

This finding won’t come as a total surprise to many. It’s the equivalent of using a brand account to respond to a negative story with a “let us explain what happened so you won’t freak out” post.

The study’s most interesting conclusion is that audiences responded more positively to the social messages because they saw them to be “more personal”. Another key finding: posts written in a casual “narrative” style were more effective than those simply listing official talking points. This makes perfect sense, because messages will always be better received when there’s evidence that real-life human beings are responsible for writing them and that they’re presented as true stories rather than point-by-point rebuttals.

For the record, we’d love to see the posts used in this study.

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