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Is social media a blessing or curse for DR communication?

In this Expert Answer, Paul Kirvan discusses why a social media policy for DR communication is an important part of a disaster recovery plan.

Social media has largely been cited as a boon for DR communication. However, social media, by definition, is outside of corporate control. What are the risks of using social media for communication during and following a disaster?

While it's widely acknowledged that social media is an effective and almost instantaneous way to communicate to large numbers of people, there are also risks. Perhaps the most important risk from social media is sending inaccurate or misleading information about the event. It's a good idea for organizations to enact social media use policies, mostly to prevent the release of unauthorized, inaccurate or possibly damaging information.

If social media is being used inside an office, and an incident occurs, rules for its use by employees should be in place and activated immediately. Coordinated use of social media by emergency response teams can be an effective way to disseminate alert messages to others. But it must be remembered that many parties can receive these messages. Such a blizzard of messages could hamper first responders and other organizations because the information they disseminate is inaccurate or misleading.

A social media policy for DR communication should stipulate who is authorized to send messages relating to an incident, the nature of the messages' content, and the frequency of their dissemination.

The traditional media -- reporters and television crews -- is always eager to receive social media messages that include photos, videos and text messages that provide eyewitness information on an event -- especially if they are unable to get past police lines or other restrictions. Again, unauthorized release of such messages to the media can damage an organization's reputation.

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