JoAnn Alumbaugh
JoAnn Alumbaugh

Editor's Note: Click here for more articles from the June issue of PorkNetwork.

The industry, that is. It’s happening all the time, in both positive and negative connotations. Social media has become an important source of news, writes While the objectivity and credibility of sources can clearly be contested, news channels tweet or give updates on significant happenings all over the world. Their availability on social networks makes news more accessible. Additionally, news quickly gets passed around the networks in ways never experienced before.

Social media has furthered interaction by such a massive scale that it is impossible to ignore, whether you’re a participant or not. It allows people to keep in touch regularly (or constantly), connecting them effortlessly between cities, states, countries and continents.

What does that mean to you? It means that if you have a crisis, no matter where you live, the world could know about it in minutes. Are you prepared?

Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications for the National Pork Board, believes it’s best to deal with the instant news cycle head-on. She should know – she’s handled numerous crises for the industry. As coordinator for the NPB Crisis Management Plans (see the article beginning on page 18), she says, “Every crisis is different – we try to figure out the best way to tell our story or the story of the producer and reach out to everybody in the news cycle throughout the world.

“Producers can take advantage of social media and the technology we have as opposed to burying our head,” she adds.

I completely agree. We are enjoying enviable demand for pork this year, as showcased in our cover story on page 8, but it could slip away with one major crisis. As an industry or individually, we simply can’t afford to let that to happen.

Chris Gidez, executive vice president and global crisis and risk practice leader at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, was quoted in the Holmes Report article, “Top 12 Crises of 2012.” He said, “Perhaps the one take-away that can be derived from most if not all of these [crises] is the absolute establishment of social media as both a catalyst for crisis and a critical tool for crisis response; though the former is far more advanced than the latter. We saw a number of incidents in which information—or misinformation—moved so rapidly and broadly across social media as to catch affected organizations off-guard.”

So, I ask again: Are you prepared?