The Speed of the Crisis Communication Game

On Oct. 28 during the Tennessee-South Carolina football game, South Carolina’s All-SEC running back Marcus Lattimore suffered only what can be identified as a gruesome leg injury in the second quarter. For the sake of the squeamish, I have not included a link to this clip. You can find it very easily if you haven’t already seen it.

Just a little background: Marcus suffered a season-ending injury last year, but still returned this year to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. His performance this year so far reinforced the suggestion that he was still capable of playing professionally. In addition, by all accounts, he was a model student-athlete and was very popular among college football fans, even if their team was on the opposing side of his touchdown runs. Despite all the upsets and close games this day, Marcus Lattimore’s injury was the top story of the college football world. His career pretty much ended, and many are praying that he will even be able to walk again.

Once this injury happened, which was around noon CST, the social media world blew up, as we have become accustomed to in this day and age. His name was trending, and the video of the injury was already posted on YouTube. Again, none of this is surprising in 2012 and is generally expected. People comment and share instantaneously. We get it.

But, there was one more movement to this story that really surprised me. I noticed at 12:45 p.m. CST, some South Carolina fans had already created a Pray for MarcusFacebook page. I clicked on it, and it already had 20,000 likes. My mind was blown away by this. An hour earlier, this man was still dodging tackles, and now, there was a page offering up prayer requests for him with the online population of a small town. AND THE GAME WAS STILL BEING PLAYED!

The game ended around 2:30 p.m., and I decided to check the Pray for Marcus page. It had ballooned to 40,000 likes. As of this writing, the page is just over 73,000 followers.
I am sure there are other examples of pages being created almost instantaneously, but this was my introduction to it. And this should be a huge eye-opener for companies, brands and organizations especially during crisis communication situations.

I can see other examples of this occurring, especially in situations that might be more controversial than that of the career-ending injury of a beloved football player. This might be seen as a threat to companies in times of crisis, but rather, perhaps it should just be seen as another layer of opportunity to monitor your message and communicate with your audiences.

In any valid crisis communication plan, you have delegated responsibilities to monitor media, address frontline calls from the public affected and provide communication to all shareholders involved. These plans generally will encompass all lines of communication, electronic and otherwise.

HOWEVER, this serves a good reminder to not only monitor your own social media platforms, but be mindful that others might create them on their own. Yes, many people will use a company’s official page to share their comments, but nothing limits individuals from sharing only on a company’s preferred platform.

I predict that the immediate creation of Facebook pages in reaction to specific events and moments will continue to be a trend for the next year at the very least. It will be a quick way for people to express how they feel at that exact moment.

Again, this should not be treated as another element in which your company has no control over because you didn’t really have control to begin with regarding the situation. Rather, see this as a chance to be more aware and proactive that the existence of publicly created pages regarding your brand can exist and this should be added to your crisis communication plan.