An overview of how Vietnamese and American PR practitioners perceive the use of social media in crisis communication

An overview of how Vietnamese and American PR practitioners perceive the use of social media in crisis communication

As part of her doctoral research, Dr. Clāra Ly-Le MPRCA, Managing Director of EloQ Communications, seeks to compare the perception of integrating social media in crisis communication in Vietnam to that in the U.S., who has always been considered a role model and main influencer for Vietnam’s PR practice. The research interviewed 12 Vietnamese practitioners and eight American practitioners who have two to 25 years of experience working in the PR industry in their respective countries.

1. Many Vietnamese practitioners are against the use of social media in crisis communication, while U.S practitioners think that help them appear more professional.

Throughout the interviews, the Vietnamese participants opposed social media use for crisis communication for fear that the disadvantages of social media can outweigh advantages. Using social media in crisis communication can lead an organization not only to the chaos of an uncontrolled situation but also harm an organization’s reputation. As a result, crisis communication in Vietnam tends to use social media in a limited way or to completely reject this platform.

On the other hand, the American participants showed favorable responses to the adoption of social media in crisis communication. They thought that since stakeholders use social media to a great extent, especially during crises, organizations must follow the trend and integrate social media into their crisis communication plans.

2. Both Vietnamese and American practitioners appreciate social media’s ability to spread messages quickly, but are concerned about being able to control it.

The Vietnamese participants said that the most prominent advantage of social media is its ability to spread messages quickly. However, this leads to another concern of this platform, which is control. On social media, stakeholders are free to interpret (or misinterpret) and share crisis communication while organizations may have little influence or interference with it.

The American participants also mentioned that the most highly appreciated characteristic of social media is its ease of reach and engagement with target audiences in an already existing online community. However, some American organizations still hesitate to adopt social media in crisis communication because of the inability to control it, as mentioned earlier. These organizations may trust newspaper and TV broadcast more, especially for sensitive information like crisis news.

3. Most Vietnamese organizations are not confident in their ability to utilize social media during crises, and most American organizations still have a lot to learn.

While it was agreed that initial adoption of social media in crisis communication is easy and requires little effort, most Vietnamese participants in the interview did not think social media is easy to use for crisis response. As an organization feels uneasy over the speed and inability to control social media, it lacks confidence in the communication team to be able to keep up with the information flow or manage a crisis tactfully.

In the U.S., social media in crisis communication is still used more by the stakeholders than organizations and therefore, organizations need to learn how to use and include a fair share of social media in their crisis communication plans. To increase the efficient use of social media in crisis communication, the participants called for more education on the platform as well as willingness to let go of some control to achieve overall communication efficiency.

Even though American organizations have been exposed to social media longer and more frequently than their Vietnamese, they still lack confidence in using this platform efficiently for crisis purposes. However, most American organizations still support social media and adopt it. Thus, maybe in the near future, Vietnamese organizations may favor more and use more social media to efficiently mitigate any crisis. In the end, it would take significant time for organizations to get used to social media and be able to use it comfortably.


Read the full article with more detail analysis on EloQ’s blog.

The article was written by Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, MComm MPRCA, the Managing Director of EloQ Communications. She is a professional communications consultant with many years of experience in executing PR campaigns in Vietnam and Southeast Asia region. Her research interests include crisis management in the social media landscape, intercultural communication, and new media communication. Read more of Dr. Ly-Le’s publication at