2013 Conference

Can Something Positive Come from This?

Dave Tyler, Social and Digital Media Manager, The College at Brockport, SUNY

On Sept. 30 2012, a freshman at The College at Brockport State University of New York was found beaten to death in her dorm room. Her hometown boyfriend was been charged with her murder. ┬áThe death attracted national and international attention, in part because of eerie statements the deceased student made on social media the night of her death; her final tweet was “Should’ve Known.”

In the hours after her death, the campus mood was, understandably, raw, scared, confused and angry. The College at Brockport was faced with the challenge of informing the public, offering support, and balancing the needs of the community with the needs of the victim’s family.

In response to this tragedy, the college began a concerted effort to both keep the public informed and bring the community together using social media — by “being human.”

“Don’t hide behind press releases,” says Tyler. “Don’t run away from contact on your social media channels.”


Tyler’s crisis communication takeaways:

  • Your reaction should be human, not institutional
  • Trust your community – they may jump into the conversation and support you
  • Trust your gut
  • Trust your team, and be sure you’re communicating with them constantly
  • Listen, and take what the community is saying and feeling into account when forming your strategy
  • Be proactive; you need to be careful that things don’t linger or fester too long
  • Post more not less: people are anxious for information

The community’s conversation with the college about this event showed campus admins that social media is an effective and important way to communicate. It also showed Brockport’s audience that the college is not an unfeeling institution, but is caring – and that there are people behind the accounts.


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By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.