So, now, a scenario. An unlikely one (maybe) ... but certainly not impossible ... to go by recent news that would suggest Canada and the US are threatened by ISIS (the Middle Eastern terror group overrunning Iraq and Syria).
A group of terrorists ... or even a single suicide bomber ... walks into your town/city's shopping mall ... bad things start happening ... chaos ensues.
Let's look at the scenario through the lens of something I've talked about often in the past: the four imperatives of incident communications in the social convergence era:
- alert your audiences using mobile devices and social networks
- understand that your response will be scrutinized by the public/media in real-time
- monitor social media during all phases of the crisis
- engage/maintain a dialogue with your audiences
|A tweet from Boston moments after the first explosion|
- start using whatever mass notification platform you may have at your disposal(as long as it's accessible via mobile devices) .. or even your Twitter account to let people know you're aware of what's going on ... something like:
"WE ARE AWARE OF THE INCIDENT AT THE MALL OF MALLS AND ARE RESPONDING"
"FIRST RESPONDERS ARE ON THE SCENE, MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW"
- verify the info with relevant first responders/authority (don't fall victim of a hoax)
- have a plan in place with some basic pre-written tweets
- have the authority under the plan to issue them fast
- have a twitter account !
"WE'RE READY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO COLLEGEVILLE"
"STATE AUTHORITIES ARE MONITORING THE SITUATION, READY TO ASSIST"
A good example above, here, from Howard County PD ... but it implies that the PIO will go on scene ... as if the main audience is still the media ... but is that right? You've got to talk to the reporters, of course, but social convergence allow you to tell your own story, without intermediaries ... to become your own broadcasters. Multi-channels for multi-audiences ....
SECOND IMPERATIVE: REALIZE YOUR RESPONSE IS BEING SCRUTINIZED
Folks are attracted to unusual events ... flashing lights, equipment and personnel being rushed to the scene ... and guess what? They'll film it and send it out ... they might even live stream your response (think of the Ferguson protests ... and the pressures it put on police ...) Are you prepared for that? Is your staff trained to be under the spotlight? If they wear your uniform or your company logo, carry your badge or ID ... THEY ARE YOUR SPOKESPERSONS/REPRESENTATIVES ... to the media ... the public ...the world really.
Now, the crowd might even record and live tweet or live stream your tactical movements and even the moment you move in.
That's why, sometimes, police send out these kinds of messages:
- ensure your messaging is being acted upon
- detect rumours/false info that could threaten public safety/health
- isolate/route calls for help through right channels
- identify reputational threats that could impede your ability to respond
- gather additional situational awareness
"BPD successfully used Twitter to keep the public informed about the status of the investigation, to calm nerves and request assistance, to correct mistaken information reported by the press, and to ask for public restraint in the tweeting of information from police scanners," the report's introduction read.A bit of a timeline here to illustrate the point:
- from the first few moments:
- Letting the people know what you're doing:
- To the immediate aftermath:
- To a couple days after: