Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Being prepared to communicate when disaster strikes

Okay, again, let's quickly set the stage.
  • crises and disasters can (and do) happen at anytime. You need to be prepared to communicate with your audiences:
    • What they need to know to protect themselves, their families, property, environment, etc,.
    • What they need to do to adopt the behaviour you wish them to adopt (shelter in place, evacuate, stay informed, be prepared)
    • What you are doing to respond to the incident (plan in motion, key priorities are ...)
  • social media means that expectations and attitudes have changed among your audiences:
    • they expect a communications response from you within minutes ... and when infrastructure is down (phones and even your website). social media can save the day ... are you prepared?... see this piece on the New Zealand earthquake 
    • they will share their opinion on your response that can influence public perception and therefore, the confidence of your elected officials, or senior executives 
    • people will share what they're witnessing ... may use social media to call for help, not only for themselves but for others, often from another continent, helping to find the missing ... Google has a good read on this and responded to the current situation in New Zealand ....
  • We are at a key convergence point in terms of mobile devices and technologies and social media ... that allow people to help ... those digital volunteers will help with maps, apps and other digital tools but they'll also show up, and/or motivate others, to show up in person at reception centres and other venues, to help ... 
All this to say: be ready!  The communications need to be immediate ... to respond to concerns, inform your audiences and help coordinate volunteers .... You also need to monitor social media diligently in your response ... and have a process in place to avoid information overload.
So Barry and I, have worked in the last couple of years, to champion the use of message maps as the principal method of shaping key messages that can be delivered quickly and efficiently at the onset of a crisis and in the days that follow.  Our presentation at Ryerson University in Toronto was thus organized in three key parts:
  1. impact of social media 
  2. social media in crises and emergencies and how to integrate in crisis communications planning
  3. message mapping ... how to craft and deliver key messages 
You'll find the first two parts in this presentation on
The part on message mapping can be found on Slideshare (with videos).

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done. I think most communicators who don't deal directly with crisis are sorely misjudging just how much the landscape has changed with social media.