Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Age of social convergence and the democratization of EM

This the first substantial post of the new year for me. Since my last post before the holiday break (my top 25 #smem countdown), I've had some time to reflect on some trends that I observe in emergency management and crisis communications.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced we're into a truly transformational phase which will impact the work of emergency managers, business continuity planners and crisis communicators. Simply put, emerging technologies and trends have brought about a generalized "democratization" of these fields.

Let me explain. Three factors motivate my position:

  • the growing importance of social networks and mobile technologies
  • the overwhelming realization that speed is EVERYTHING 
  • greater public participation and input
The consequences of this are numerous but they all add to the immediate workload of EM folks and crisis communicators when an incident/disaster occurs. You must respond, alert/warn, monitor and then engage/communicate. In all this, social networks and mobile tech play crucial roles. A recent blog from my good friend Kim Stephens highlights the importance of mobile.

Second, the speed at which incidents and crises (and it doesn't matter if they're in the real world or virtual/social network related ... they will all hurt you if not handled properly) ... means that delegation of authority and the automation of comms response processes becomes absolutely necessary. To be able to "handle" such a crisis ... you need to use the tools your audiences use. 

Or you can ignore the risks and social media chatter (and you'll kill off your rep or your entire bottom line) or go on a misguided offensive without really engaging with your audiences. Former senator Chris Dodd is learning the harm in doing that in his response to the SOPA protests as the Hollywood mouthpiece. The fact is, if you handle things correctly, people will defend your actions ... come to your defense even

Third, social networks bring greater participation from your stakeholders and audiences. That's the great democratization factor. Online communities coalesce rapidly over topics, crises and disaster recovery for example. Emergency managers and officials now have to deal with all sorts of newcomers to the EM table ... from crisis mappers, crowdsourcing groups and online volunteers.

Here's an example of how the crowd can contribute ... from a new piece of tech developed in Australia.
Sirenus is developing a computer network that will take information on a disaster threat from a variety of sources including official, mainstream and social media, and combine this with crowd-sourced information from its own users and subscribers. It will sort, categorise and rate this information and then deliver information to users automatically and immediately via the Smartphone, Web, Social Media (Facebook, Twitter), email and SMS (text message). Users will have real-time, localised and personalised information at their fingertips.

The three factors combine to make a questioning of the IMS/ICS necessary? do we need a new position in command to handle the extra outreach workload? Or should the PIO and LO  share the work? When response becomes more diffuse and activities are decentralized, does command retain the same meaning? Where in the doctrine should social media monitoring and data mining/analysis be placed?

To help answer these questions ... you must read the two documents just released by the US Department of Homeland Security ... download the two PDFs and have a read ... at first glance, they offer the outline of a brighter future for EM ...

Would be glad to hear from you on this ...

No comments:

Post a Comment