CNN is broadcasting from Ferguson, and so are the live-streaming citizens on scene.
— Anne-MarieMcLaughlin (@EMgrB) August 20, 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.
With every new crisis response, the amount of publicly available real-time information has increased. Social media allows the public a front-row seat to the response and in some cases, allows for localized grassroots leadership that can hamper Unified Effort. Has this affected how you lead?
Individuals and groups looking to get attention for their causes via social media — such as any kind of “justice” movement (e.g., environmental justice, social justice), right or wrong — has really taken off since people saw the impact of social media during events like the Arab Spring and other mass-organized activities of the last few years.
The recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a great example of how people can quickly organize and spread their message to the masses — with no filters — to gain support, as the opposition to “something.”
How do those in emergency management and crisis communications work with this reality, instead of against it?
Leaders and communicators that work for organizations that could be embroiled in crisis would be wise to build a social media presence — and relationships within social media channels — now. Establish a clear channel of official communication that will be used as a source of facts when crisis strikes.
Also, it would behoove anyone who hasn’t had much social media in emergency management experience to look at who is doing it right — effectively communicating with affected publics during crisis, using social media in conjunction with traditional forms of communication to be the first and best source of information.