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Once upon a time, in the ‘olden days’, there was a land devoid of social media. Where words flowed free without the bounds of hashtags and @mentions. Can you even imagine such a time? Thank goodness we’ve evolved, and now the power of a single # can shift the direction of an entire crisis. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the labyrinth of hashtags and crisis communication.

Crisis, as we know it, is a Shakespearean drama in real life. There’s conflict, there’s tension, and there’s resolution. And hashtags, they are the true heroes of this modern tale, or as we’d say in meme lingo, they’re the “cool guys who don’t look at explosions”.

Let’s break down the ‘#’ in crisis communication through a couple of intriguing case studies.

Case Study 1: #BringBackOurGirls

When 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted in 2014, it led to an international outcry. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was used over a million times in just three weeks. Notably, even the then First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, held up a sign with the hashtag in a photograph that became viral.

Case Study 2: #BlackLivesMatter

The #BlackLivesMatter movement began as a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer in 2013. This hashtag has been tweeted millions of times and has gone on to become the rallying cry for racial justice across the globe.

What’s interesting to note is that both hashtags didn’t just spread information about the crisis, but they rallied individuals globally, making them integral parts of the communication process. Remember the viral giphy of a crowd clapping? That’s your audience when you nail a crisis communication campaign with a good hashtag.

But wait, just like a plot twist in a movie, it’s not always sunshine and retweets. There’s a darker side to hashtags in crisis communication too.

Case Study 3: #McDStories

In 2012, McDonald’s launched the hashtag #McDStories expecting heartwarming stories about Happy Meals. Instead, the hashtag took a grim turn, with users sharing negative experiences about the fast-food giant. Imagine a “Trust nobody, not even yourself” meme, but with Ronald McDonald holding a burger in the backstabbing position. Yikes!

What we learn here is that the power of hashtags, like Spiderman’s powers, comes with great responsibility.

So what are the key takeaways?

Firstly, a well-strategized hashtag can turn spectators into participants, amplifying your crisis communication reach. Secondly, you need to have a strong crisis communication strategy that goes beyond just creating a catchy hashtag. And lastly, don’t be shocked if your well-intentioned hashtag spirals out of control if you don’t monitor and manage it effectively.

As we venture deeper into the digital age, the evolution of hashtags in crisis communication continues. So grab your popcorn and tweet deck because this #CrisisCommunication saga isn’t ending anytime soon. Just remember to #UseHashtagsWisely, or you might become the next viral meme. And trust us, you don’t want that giphy of a dumpster fire associated with your brand.

And that’s the story of hashtags and crisis communication. Like a good old tale of knights and battles, only instead of knights, we have Twitter warriors, and instead of swords, we have hashtags. Long live the #!