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Academics debate Mandalay Bay’s social media response to shootings

Updated October 2, 2017 - 4:55 pm

Between a Facebook post Saturday morning promoting its resort and a post around 3 a.m. Monday expressing condolences and information about a lockdown, there was nothing on Mandalay Bay’s account.

On Twitter, between a retweet promoting upcoming Billy Idol performances at 9:44 p.m. Sunday and a tweet expressing the same condolences and information about a lockdown at 5:35 a.m. Monday, there was nothing.

Mandalay Bay “blew it,” says Jonathan Bernstein, president of Los Angeles-based Bernstein Crisis Management. “It was already a horrendous situation, but they made a bad situation worse by not being prepared for crisis communications.”

But Robert Ulmer, dean of the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs disagrees. He asks, what more should Mandalay Bay have posted?

“In something that was so chaotic and so difficult, I’m not sure if social media messages could have helped people make better decisions,” Ulmer said.

Bernstein said the resort could have been faster in posting messages of sympathy and staying in contact with social media users.

“In the absence of communication, rumor and innuendo fill the gap,” he said. “If you don’t put out good messages of compassion and caring and what you’re doing to cooperate with authorities, then people will reach the conclusion that you don’t care. In addition, I’m sure a lot of family members were going crazy, and you need to have people to respond to families.”

Twitter is an “absolutely critical” platform.

“If they weren’t on it, then they weren’t planning,” he said.

But it’s not that Mandalay Bay wasn’t using Twitter, Ulmer said. And a social media post around 3 a.m. rather than a post an hour or two earlier is not “outside the window” of public acceptance, especially if the communications team was helping on the ground instead, he said.

In such a “highly dynamic” situation, a brand has to be very careful about what it communicates, in order to avoid getting anything wrong and to avoid worsening the situation.

Still, Bernstein said the resort could have been more present on social media. And if it didn’t have the internal labor to do so, outsourcing it would have been just a phone call away.

“And they didn’t make that call.”

MGM did not immediately return a request for comment.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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