There has been a confirmed shooting at the Columbia mall. a PIO will be on scene shortly. No updates or new details yet.
— Howard County Police (@HCPDNews) January 25, 2014
I recently spoke at a two-day all-hazard crisis incident response seminar in Berkeley, Calif., titled, “Thriving in the First 96 Hours.” Among other activities, I took part in a leadership panel to field questions about crisis communications. This post, and others, is adapted from my short responses to questions on the topic asked before and during that panel discussion.
The speed of communications has increased dramatically over recent years to near instantaneous communications. How does this affect the model of crisis messaging?
This question goes back to having an effective presence across all communications channels — traditional and new — now, before crisis strikes. Speed of communications has affected where and from whom people receive messages more than anything else — if it’s from you now, on the channels that your stakeholders use, then it builds dividends for you during crises.
An example of this that I’ve written about before is the Howard County, Md., Police Department — how they used speedy, social media to augment their traditional communications channels, and how simple their department’s rules of engagement are to empower their public information officer to use new media effectively (and, to the benefit of stakeholders).
Social media in emergency management, in conjunction with traditional releases of information brought calm and clarity, and earned the department (in the above linked incident) trust and praise — and quadrupled their followers during the incident (me included!).
Many organizations have been early adopters of new communication channels, such as social media, and that’s good. Being an early adopter, then stagnating isn’t that great — but keeping up with how those channels work best to reach the masses, and continuously adapting, is good. The model of crisis messaging hasn’t changed so much, but the tools of the trade have.