Why Crisis Communication Needs to Include Social Media, Now

DC EARTHQUAKE UPDATE  8/24/2011:

So, how effective was Washington, DC’s social media crisis communication during yesterday’s earthquake?

Chris Battle, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Public Affairs Director, basically scores the event Crowdsourcing 100, Government 0.

In his post “After Earthquake, DC Government Needs Lesson in Social Media” he says if they don’t adapt, they will “no longer fill the role of crisis communicators, a critical aspect of emergency management.”

Chris and Erik are both sounding the alarm. Who in the public sector will answer the call?

Click for video transcript

Former Risk Communication Director Erik Deckers discusses why government agencies need to use social media before the next crisis hits.

I learned of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse from Twitter within 15 minutes of the tragedy. Throughout the evening, many people including Allison Carter, Chris Theisen and Erik curated and tweeted updates. Most of their information came from people on-site and police scanners, not through traditional media channels.

Through social media, agencies can be an immediate voice of authority to news agencies and directly to the public. But to be effective, they have to build and engage their audiences before the emergency happens.

It’s no longer a surprise that more and more people get their information from social media and digital sources. It’s time agencies integrate these channels in their daily processes so they are effective when  crisis communication is needed.

Erik discusses this in more detail in his recent post.

– Don Kincaid

P. S. Try text messaging if you are involved in a large-scale emergency. Because it uses a fraction of the resources of a voice call, you may be able to get through with a text even if you can’t complete a call from your wireless phone.

Video Transcript

> Don Kincaid: Tell me what lessons we can learn from recent events,
about how governments can better prepare to use social media in times like these?

> Erik Deckers: I think a lot of governments aren’t prepared for crisis communication.
They’re still using e-mail as a primary form of communicating with the media,
and they don’t even consider communicating with the public,
so I think that’s an overall attitude they have to overcome.

But then they need to actually relax a little bit,
and let some of their staff use tools like a blog, like Twitter, like Facebook.
Those three tools, I think, for any government agency, can communicate with their constituents, with the public at large, especially during a crisis.

And if they get into the habit of doing it now,  when there’s nothing going on,
and they just… it’s almost like every day is a test, or simulation of some sort,
and they just put out new blog posts,
and talk about what their agencies are doing, they get on Twitter,
and meet people who they might be associated with later on, during a crisis.

If they start doing that, then the agency becomes the voice of authority during the crisis.
Otherwise, they’re too busy ‘playing catch-up’, because people like me are on Twitter,
reporting on things we see on the news, to everybody else, who’s not turned on the TV,
and the agency in question has lost all credibility, they’ve lost their expertise,
basically, their right to speak, as the authority.

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About donkincaid

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7 Responses to Why Crisis Communication Needs to Include Social Media, Now

  1. Corbin Prows says:

    Interesting thoughts.

    • donkincaid says:

      Thanks Corbin. With many people now using social media and digital outlets for their information source, I find it interesting that more agencies aren’t developing a direct voice with the public. Raquel Foster, the Fort Wayne PD Public Information Officer was building a good Facebook presence but it seems to have disappeared. I’ll have to find out what happened there.

  2. Great post Don! This is definitely a good topic to delve into. Thanks for sharing.

  3. donkincaid says:

    Thanks Rocky. I appreciated your sharing of the “Top 10 Video Dos and Don’ts” at the Indy SM breakfast. http://12starsmedia.com/blog/wrap-up-indysm-breakfast-11-using-video

  4. I agree Don. I usually hear of events through twitter or another social media channel well before I catch it on the news or a radio interruption. I do believe social media is an underused communication channel for crisis communication. Thanks for noticing.

  5. Pingback: Govt Risk Communicators on the Need for Social Media | Security Debrief

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