Tuesday, November 17, 2009

competing trends?

When I'm short of time and have just a few seconds to describe what emergency information is, I use the following: first, it's communicating to our audiences what they need to know to protect themselves, family, property and the environment ... and second, what the authorities need to communicate to help ensure these audiences adopt the right behaviour (shelter, evacuate, prepare ...) ... that's pretty easy ... two parallel streams ... more often then not converging ...

There are trends that come and muddy the waters a bit though ... with the growing use of social media ... PIOs and organizations now engage in multiple, simultaneous "online conversations" with diverse audiences ... you have to prepare to be heard (see previous posts) but that's the broad picture ... and there's a second current trend that might appear to be in opposition to the pluralistic nature of emergency information in the social media age ...

Our friend Gerald Baron has recently reflected on this: http://emcrisiscomm.blogspot.com/2009/11/warning-messages-risks-of-wimpiness-and.html
... sometimes you need to be very direct and adopt a "command voice" ... telling precisely (if not ordering) your audiences what to do ...

The Hurricane Ike example in Galveston is telling .... the famous "leave/evacuate or you will die" message that came from local/state and federal officials ... what impact did it have?

Are there better ways to ensure your audiences hear you?

Can those two trends ... the social media conversations ... and the more direct command ... be reconciled ?

I'd say ... use both approaches ... talk to people who'll listen to you because of an existing relationship or your organization's credibility ... but that can only get you so far ... we still can't ignore the 10 per cent of die hards who won't abide by your suggestions ...

if more direct, authoritative messaging is necessary ... use it ! ... and this type of messaging particularly plays well in traditional media (take it from a former reporter ... )

in the end, it probably won't change much ... but our collective conscience might be a bit better off !

As always, comments are welcome !

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