Why Crisis Communication Needs to Include Social Media, Now


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.

Posted in Observations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Character: Do You Trust Your Recruits to Baby-Sit Your Children?

Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema has done a great job building the program to a five year 49-16 record. He recently commented on recruiting and character (starts at 14:06).

The key takeaway:

“If you are not willing to let a recruit come in and baby-sit your children when you’re not in the house, don’t recruit them.”

Simple and to the point.

Even as an IU alum, I am impressed by his attitude and his way to success.

What do you tell your team about recruiting new hires? I look forward to your thoughts!

– Don Kincaid

More on character from my post on Character and Twitter.

Posted in Leadership | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Leadership: Creating Moments Everywhere

Leaders look for moments to connect at every opportunity. Fort Wayne Indian Village Elementary Principal Stephany Bourne is a great example. This photo was taken at 4:30 after a student recognition ceremony for reading improvement. I was headed home after helping clean up. I walked out the door and saw her reading to the kids and engaging them in a conversation about a poem.

This is after school on a nice spring day.

They were happy…. and learning.

During the semester, I saw students voluntarily go to the principal’s office after lunch to read. That’s a whole different spin to “Going to the principal” than I remember.

She connects with her students. They respond. I believe they feel she supports and trusts them.

Make no mistake, there is discipline. But it’s not, I’ll catch you doing wrong. She will start a session by asking the purpose of the session, what are the acceptable activities, and then the unacceptable activities.  At that point, everybody is on the same page without any surprises.

Thanks Principal Bourne and the kids at Indian Village! I’m glad I went back to school to learn a lesson in leadership.

– Don Kincaid

edited to correct school name
Posted in Fort Wayne, Leadership, Motivation, Profiles | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Prejudice is Alive and Well in 2011 – Unfortunately

The guest author is a good friend who has asked to remain anonymous.  I am honored to be asked to post this story. I am also sad that the post is necessary.

I was enjoying a pleasant experience at a suburban men’s clothing store the other day. My sales person, John was enthusiastically taking my money and I was excited about the clothing he had upsold me. I only went in for a shirt…the alterations on my new sport coat and 2 pair of slacks would be ready in 2 days.

John was interrupted by another salesperson,”He doesn’t want me to wait on him. “John said, “What?” and was answered, “He wants his own kind.” John stopped and looked at the other employee and said, “Excuse me?” The employee repeated, “He doesn’t want me to help him.”

This is 2011. I’m shopping in a nice, suburban neighborhood, retail outlet. The customer refusing help is a clean-cut, well-groomed, professional-looking, 30 something. Is this for real?

With clenched jaw, John went to the stores manager. The manager helped the customer.
The employee who had been refused was a 70-year-old retired military man. He fought for our country and defended us all.

If you Google “Hate Groups,” there are over 900 hate groups listed. Should we start a dexteresque hate group–a hate group that hates hate groups? Well…no. It’s a reminder that racism continues to exist. It can be anywhere and is everywhere. It is the responsibility of people to work against it, and it starts with our children. Do not assume they know what is right – teach them, and show them.

When I was 13-years old, my parents owned and operated a neighborhood convenience store. A small cafeteria was attached to the store. Mom ran the cafeteria and dad ran the store.

The cafeteria did a lively lunch business supported by a few local businesses. One warm summer day, a local power company service crew stopped to eat. One member of the service crew was an African American (back then, he was black). Several regulars from a local gravel operation began heckling the man, “You know where the colored section is? It’s out in your damn truck you ___!” The heckling became worse. My dad took off his white store apron, handed it to me, and asked me to run the register. He was going to lunch. My dad went through the line, got a tray of food and sat down with the African American man. It was a lesson. The cafeteria closed a short time later. It had been black- balled. Over the years, my dad taught me we all have prejudices, but must understand they are wrong and work to change them. Teach your children.

Here are several tolerance teaching organizations including:
Anti-Racist Parent, Teaching Tolerance, Character Education, and the Civil Rights Project.

Posted in Guest Authors, Observations, Retail | Tagged | 1 Comment

Another Reason A Desk IS a Dangerous Place

Don Kincaid Leaving the Plane!

In my first post, I was reminded that we should step away from the desk. My advice:

Visit stores, walk down the hall, pick up the phone – and listen to your associates AND customers.

The reason – It’s too easy to get fixated on the monitor and not see the real business.

Peter Shankman takes it to the next level with five great ways to step away from the desk and kick-start our brains in “How to Regain Your Lost Creativity.” Take time to read it and then immediately pick one idea to do the very next time you get brain freeze.

Like skydiving ….

Yes, that’s me with arms crossed thinking,”What the heck am I doing?” I admit. It was great! Now every time I think of saying “I’ll try to..,” I stop the thought with, “I didn’t try to jump, I did it.” Now it’s a trigger to remember to stretch that brain muscle.

Thanks for the reminder Peter.

Now, how do you find your creativity when you’re stuck?

– Don Kincaid

Posted in Customer Satisfaction, Fort Wayne, Marketing, Motivation, Retail, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Twitter. The Good, The Bad, and Character

Twitter –  The  worldwide, instantaneous megaphone AND listening device. It’s

  • Brought millions to the streets.
  • Given businesses – small and large – a voice to engage and grow their customer base.
  • Provided comfort in times of disaster by reuniting families.

But then, there are times the <enter> key is hit and and the world sees what it should have never seen.

In Jay Baer’s excellent “Convince & Convert,” he discusses the 3 Types of Destructive Corporate Tweets.  It’s a must read.

Reading it, one thought kept running through my head:

Character Counts

Most of the issues when a mistake happens, and the response to it, can be minimized by hiring for character as the first priority. Period. Every associate represents your company. To your customer, they are the company.

Who will represent the company? What are their key qualities? Excellent communication skills are a given. A leader inspiring multiple teams to effectively use social media will improve your customer experience.

But if  you insist the company choose associates with character, you will have fewer social media mistakes. And when they do happen, you’ll see a response that follows  Jay’s  “Three A’s – Acknowledge, Apologize, Authenticity.”

How important is character in your company? How do identify people with character? What qualities do you look for on your team?

I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.

– Don Kincaid

Posted in Customer Satisfaction, Marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Are There Any New Musical Notes?

photo by bwhistler on flickr under creative commons license.

Web 2.0, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, foursquare, blogs, and many more options.

Q: How many new “musical notes” are there in this new digital collaborative world?

A: None. Notes are the tried and true ways of how to:

  1. Talk with your friends about their interests.
  2. Meet new people by asking friends for introductions.
  3. Listen more, learn more.
  4. Help people.
  5. Tell the truth.
  6. Don’t do things that you don’t want the world to know.

The notes are the basic building blocks of friendship and business we already know.

What’s new are the instruments of this music. They allow you to play the music ‘louder’ to reach a huge audience faster.

Intimidating? It can be.

Start simple. Choose an instrument, then listen. Find people that share your interest. Join the conversation.

Another key to learning this new world – Step away from the desk and find like-minded people in your community. Yep, face to face. It’s amazing how much I learned about social media when I started discussing this world in person.

One place to start is a social media breakfast. Held in over 40 cities throughout the US, these monthly gatherings are designed to teach, share, and learn social media best practices for business. My local Fort Wayne breakfast group has been a great help to me. It’s not the only way. Ask your friends, you find plenty of recommendations.

Remember, you know the notes. Now it’s time to find an instrument and start playing your music.

How have you played your musical notes in the digital world?

– Don Kincaid

Posted in Fort Wayne, Marketing, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments