In our last post, we looked at the benefits of social media for risk, high-concern, and crisis communication. In this post, we’ll examine the challenges social media poses for communicators in all fields.


Communicators are well advised to take the following into consideration when engaging in risk, high-concern, and crisis communications.

Rising Expectations

Organizations are expected to keep pace with expectations by stakeholders regarding the use of social media for communicating risk, high-concern, and crisis information. These rising expectations often result in an “expectation gap” between organizations and their audiences.


Social media messages are often reposted and redistributed in many forms, from tweets to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat posts. Messages need to be crafted with expectations of reuse, and each repurposing, recontextualizing, and reposting creates opportunities for distortion.

Permanent Storage

Information posted on social media will be stored for as long as there is access to digital information in its original format. So it is hard to refute or recover from negative information or misinformation posted on a social media site, and even harder to delete the information.

Fake News, Rumors, Misinformation, and Disinformation

Social media is a breeding ground for fake news, rumors, misinformation, and disinformation, all of which can quickly go viral. Based on priorities (and holding constant other variables), rumors, misinformation, and disinformation need to be identified and corrected before the false information has a chance to spread.


Social media sites are highly vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. Fake news is at nearly epidemic levels.

Rise and Fall of Social Media Platforms and Tools

Social media platforms rise and fall rapidly, and it is difficult to track social media platforms, the changes in their popularity, and their number of followers. Risk, high-concern, and crisis communicators need to continually evaluate, prioritize, and assess social media platforms.


Monitoring social media content about high-concern issues can be a full-time activity. Substantial resources are needed to share content with stakeholders, let alone interact with them.


Information placed on, and shared through, social media sites has the potential to violate privacy standards and expectations of confidentiality.

Players on the Field

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the broad range of players that can now communicate information about high-concern issues. This exponential widening of the playing field creates immense dangers, including concerns about censorship, monopolies, privacy, biases, disinformation, rumors, and campaigns to divide, discredit, and distract.

Communicating Effectively When Feelings, Fears, and Facts Collide

Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication introduces communicators to the tools and techniques for communicating effectively—while providing greater insight into why audiences react the way they do during times of stress.

The course comprises nine video lectures and accompanying text modules, plus supplemental materials for putting valuable lessons into practice.

More information about the course, including group rates and partnering opportunities, can be found by emailing

Dr. Vincent Covello

Dr. Vincent Covello, director of the Center for Risk Communication, is one of the world’s leading experts and practitioners on risk, high-concern, and crisis communication. He is the author of more than 150 articles in scientific journals and the author/editor of more than 20 books. Dr. Covello is a consultant, writer, speaker, and teacher. He is a frequent keynote speaker and has conducted communication skills training for thousands.