Crisis communication and social media: the changing environment for natural disaster response

Tom Hart, Christopher Brewster, Duncan Shaw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference publication

Abstract

Over the past two years there have been several large-scale disasters (Haitian earthquake, Australian floods, UK riots, and the Japanese earthquake) that have seen wide use of social media for disaster response, often in innovative ways. This paper provides an analysis of the ways in which social media has been used in public-to-public communication and public-to-government organisation communication. It discusses four ways in which disaster response has been changed by social media: 1. Social media appears to be displacing the traditional media as a means of communication with the public during a crisis. In particular social media influences the way traditional media communication is received and distributed. 2. We propose that user-generated content may provide a new source of information for emergency management agencies during a disaster, but there is uncertainty with regards to the reliability and usefulness of this information. 3. There are also indications that social media provides a means for the public to self-organise in ways that were not previously possible. However, the type and usefulness of self-organisation sometimes works against efforts to mitigate the outcome of the disaster.
4. Social media seems to influence information flow during a disaster. In the past most information flowed in a single direction from government organisation to public, but social media negates this model. The public can diffuse information with ease, but also expect interaction with Government Organisations rather than a simple one-way information flow.
These changes have implications for the way government organisations communicate with the public during a disaster. The predominant model for explaining this form of communication, the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC), was developed in 2005 before social media achieved widespread popularity. We will present a modified form of the CERC model that integrates social media into the disaster communication cycle, and addresses the ways in which social media has changed communication between the public and government organisations during disasters.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Tenth Annual International Conference on Communication and Mass Media
EditorsG.T. Papanikos
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event10th Annual International Conference on Communication and Mass Media - Athens, Greece
Duration: 14 Jul 201217 Jul 2012

Conference

Conference10th Annual International Conference on Communication and Mass Media
CountryGreece
CityAthens
Period14/07/1217/07/12

Keywords

  • social media
  • disaster response

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