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In times of crisis

Monitoring during a crisis, particularly in the early stage, can direct risk communicators in further communications.

Monitoring during a crisis

Findings from the FoodRisC project show that social media responds very quickly to a food crisis. However, as a crisis progresses there is more time for reflection and debate and thus the story may change over time. For example, news about the Irish dioxin crisis was released publically at a press conference in the Governments press centre on Sunday 6th December 2008. The message for consumers was clear, i.e. Irish pork and bacon products should not be consumed but consumers should not be unduly concerned as short term exposure to dioxins and PCBs does not result in adverse health effects. Over the period of coverage in the media, the story moved from one about consumer protection, through to one about consumer rights, to the damage of the industry and desire for compensation, to ultimately the return of Irish pork products back to the market.

Furthermore, research from the FoodRisC project has shown that different communication channels are used at different stages throughout a crisis (e.g. twitter at early stages, blogs and forums later on) and that as a crisis progresses the sentiment changes. Therefore it is important to monitor volume (e.g. number of posts, mentions, followers, re-tweets), content (e.g. topic, sentiment and tone) and the networks of people involved in discussions and content creation throughout the crisis. The information generated can direct risk communicators in their activities and future communciations.

Monitoring across countries

The global nature and growing complexity of the food chain means that risks posed by unsafe foods have the potential to evolve quickly from a local problem to an international incident. Therefore, many countries are often consumed in conversation about the same topic. Within these countries, everyone from elite individuals at higher organisational levels to journalists to less powerful lay-people with an internet connection have the potential to communicate. Thus communications surrounding the same crisis (i.e. intra-country and inter-country) may be reflected and debated from a variety of different angles. Therefore you may need to take this into consideration!