Friday, June 8, 2012

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

During a recent business trip a developing country, I had the good fortune to meet with one of the leading crisis consultant of the country.  During our discussion, the topic of crisis communications strategy and techniques came up and he shared that in his country, crisis communications did not depend on fancy strategy or techniques, but was about often about greasing the palms of key personnel in the media and government.

While I agreed with him that in countries where the government had strict control of the media this was currently possible, I highlighted to him that the proliferation of social media was changing this.  This is because social media creates citizen journalism which in turns minimizes the influence of a single editor or government official s over the news.

To illustrate, one only needs to understand the role the internet played in Syrian crisis.  Developed in the 1969, the Internet began as ARPAnet and was structured to be the computer version of the nuclear bomb shelter.  ARPAnet (the grandfather of the Internet) was intended to protect the flow of information between military installations by creating a network of geographically separated computers that could exchange information via a newly developed protocol (rule for how computers interact) called NCP (Network Control Protocol).  This geographical separation eliminated any single point of failure and ensured that information continued to flow uninterrupted. With this as a design structure, it is therefore impossible for anyone to effectively control the Internet.

I thus concluded by sharing that while it is possible for crisis consultants to manage a crisis in his country via traditional means, I think it will be impossible once the level of social media use in his country reaches the proverbial tipping point.

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