Sunday, December 9, 2012

Top #smem-related events of 2012: at #10: Israel-Gaza war

Here's the first post in my Holiday series on top SMEM events of the year. 

Some may think there's little in common between a war in the Middle East and social media in emergency management. Well, I like to think you can identify lessons to learn from pretty much any field, anywhere.

I've said in the past that social convergence now should now have agencies/organizations do four things all at once from the onset of any incident:

Furthermore, you conduct social media monitoring for five key reasons:

  1. verify the effectiveness of your emergency information messaging
  2. rumour control
  3. detect and deal/respond to any request for assistance
  4. identify reputational threats that could undermine your ability to fulfil your mandate
  5. enhance your situational awareness
So, where does the war between the Israeli Defence Forces and Hamas fit in? It's simple. Both sides in the recent conflict understood that you need to own the public space on social networks to position your operations under the best possible light. That PR component played a key role in how international public opinion perceived the conflict.  

Ask FEMA if they need to "fight for their image" during response and recovery efforts. They sure do. Critics abound and ignoring them can undermine the effectiveness of any operation by bringing unwanted distractions from a focused enterprise. 

The same applies to the American Red Cross. Their efforts were fantastic and still doubts and frustrations were common. I remember a newscast where a resident of New York was complaining that " ... all those highly-paid Red Cross people are nowhere to be seen ..."  or words to that effect ... We all know that it's VOLUNTEERS that are at the heart of the Red Cross emergency operations but there was a perception of inaction and frustrations grew along with the volume of misinformation.

So, that's the lesson I learned from the Israeli-Hamas war. You must defend your response to any incident, using all the platforms and tools at your disposal (with a particular focus on social networks) even as your are conducting on-the-ground operations. 

No emergency is local anymore. Perceptions are shaped on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube (among others) instantly. Impressions are made on your street, in your neighbourhood, town, county, state/province ... across the country and the globe. 

Welcome to the SMEM PR war! 

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