Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 2:03 PM

Swine flu and crisis communications

(Photo credit: AP)

There are myriad ways to explore how public anxiety over swine flu will impact businesses, from airlines and drug makers to agriculture. For now, I am watching how pork producers respond to the uneasy public sentiment that is lighting up social media sites across the web. Here's an example:

The social media phenomenon known as Twitter has been abuzz this week with discussion over the swine flu and how people can protect themselves. Several users (none of whom appear to have any medical background) are telling their friends and family that the risk of swine flu is, as one person put it, "another reason to avoid eating pork."

That's not true, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC flatly states that swine flu is not transmitted via food. Yet the misinformation on Twitter - which has roughly 5 million members and growing, including members of the press -- can spread like wildfire, and rarely is information edited for accuracy. This can cause significant confusion and ultimately threaten a pork producer's bottom line. Take a look at what's happened to hog prices by clicking here.

The onus is on those producers to "go where the people are" and combat misinformation head on. To its credit, the National Pork Producers Council does have a presence on Twitter, but its list of followers at the time of this writing is slim considering the volume of chatter about its industry.

We'll be watching with interest.

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