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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's not just about tools ... twitter, facebook or others.

I'm usually on the side of proponents of the use of social media platforms during emergencies. It makes a lot of sense: engaging your audiences directly, quickly and effectively. I've modestly tried to push things along in my (limited !!!) sphere of influence.

In most cases, i hear the usual objections on the use of social media: not enough context, not enough info, need more facts ... can't respond too quickly ... they're gimmicky ... and the other chapters in a long litany of incomprehension, lack of knowledge or just plain stubbornness.

Well, that's fine! I can put forward great arguments on the use of social media as emergency info tools ... and I usually do.

Now, what I find as concerning, is the tendency by disciples of social media ... to confuse the tools (the actual platforms themselves: twitter and others) with the objectives: to inform the public and present your emergency response in the best possible light.

More important than an organization's ability to tweet ... is the foundation behind its desire to communicate quickly during emerging situations or incidents. It's grand and fine to be able to tweet, inbed social media platforms on your website and all that ... BUT ... are you prepared? What are you going to say?

Do you have a crisis communications plan? does it have a series of protocols that determine who will respond to an incident ... and how soon? does it include delegation of authority to do so?
we're now in world where a delay of 15 minutes ( as in the airline whose plane landed in the Hudson River) in responding to an incident brings you criticism ...

Let's not forget the basics: good sound crisis comms planning, prepared messaging (message mapping anyone ???), trained crisis communicators ... an experienced team that trains often ... significant executive support (that's when you get that delegation of authority) ... effective follow up and measurements ... http://http://www.hstoday.us/content/view/9638/128/

Some of you might think that we're going overboard ... it doesn't matter ... if your audiences demand a quick response of your organization ... and you stick to your existing practices ... you'll end up with egg on your faces ...

the top down strategy doesn't work ... in messaging (we now engage in conversations ... on line, thru social media ... we're not preaching from up high ...) nor does it work in the org chart sense either ...

the more of your people are empowered to respond to incidents ... with proper tools, training and support ... the better the outcomes will be ...

can we still afford to wait 6 hours to respond to media and public calls on a train quarantined in Northern Ontario on suspicions of some exotic disease ... i gather not ...

can we wait four hours to issue a basis media statement after a huge explosion in an industrial site in Toronto ... while images of conflagration and rocket-like tanks flying through the air flood social media sites?

the world is changing ... expectations are too ... it's up to all of us to keep up ... here's a useful link:http://http//webworkerdaily.com/2009/06/01/crisis-communications-for-the-social-media-age/

by the way ... are your media people available 24/7 ? ... your web folks ?
or do incidents only happen on business hours ...

As always I await comments