Crisis communication, social media and natural disasters – the use of Twitter by local governments during the 2016 Italian earthquake

di Simone Splendiani e Antonella Capriello

in Corporate Communications: An International Journal

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Purpose – The objective of this exploratory research is to investigate the role of Twitter in crisis communication by analysing all the earthquake-related messages from local public authorities in four Italian regions (Abruzzo, Lazio, Marche and Umbria) during the seismic sequence that began on 24th August 2016 and finished at the end of January 2017.

Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on a manual data collection of earthquake-related tweets. Founded on a theoretical framework, the data analysis has been developed both through textual analysis and in-depth interpretation by two researchers to catalogue the messages according to identified categories.

Findings – It emerges that the affected Italian regions used Twitter only for information coverage without offering a complete and detailed picture of the disaster. Most of the tweets concerned daily statements by politicians or regional administrators engaged in crisis management, while an accurate selection of the topics and messages to be launched does not emerge, with significant implications on the effectiveness of the tweeting activity itself.

Originality/value – This paper aims to contribute to the literature on crisis communication and social media during a natural disaster, highlighting the criticalities shown by the Italian case studies. The originality of this study relates to the comparative examination of Twitter activities for four regional government bodies involved in the 2016 Italian earthquake.