Zombies & Social Media: A Recap

| Written by: Karen Kirksey

Dr. W. Timothy Coombs, Professor at the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication, joined the Capital Chapter to explain “What Zombies Teach Us About Social Media Crises: Managing Crises in the Digital Age.”

Dr. Coombs works from the premise that, like modern-day Zombies, social media crises are viral — spreading fast, stirring up trouble and causing crisis situations that must be addressed quickly by public relations professionals. He offered the following life-saving suggestions for handling these Zombie-like crises:

  • The problem with social media crises is that — like Zombies — you never know when they might hit.
  • When fighting for your (PR) life, strategy always matters – it never goes out of style.
  • To stay alive, you need to have weapons and know how to use them. A PR pro’s weapons are words and channels, and you should use them all. Overlap and redundancy are good.
  • To keep social media crises from spreading like Zombies, you should tailor your messages to your audiences or issue, but maintain consistency.
  • If a Zombie is in front of you, kill it. Likewise, kill rumors instead of ignoring them. They’re not going to go away quietly.
  • The risk with handling a viral social media crisis is that you have to make quick decisions, and sometimes you might make the wrong one. That’s why having a Zombie/crisis plan is so important.

Dr. Coombs is a  recognized global thought leader in crisis communication. He has consulted with agencies specializing in crisis communication in the US, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium. He has also delivered presentations about crisis communication around world. Coombs is the author of three books on crisis communication: the award-winning, Ongoing Crisis Communication (now in its third edition), Code Red in the Boardroom, and The Handbook of Crisis Communication (co-editor).