Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leading an online webinar on social media in emergencies

I had the privilege of leading an online seminar hosted by PIERSystems and my good friend Gerald Baron (@gbaron on Twitter) on the age of social convergence and what it means for emergency managers.

I'm happy to report that the feedback has been positive (big sigh of relief ! ) ...

Here's how you can access the webinar:
Presentation on Slide Share (includes video but not my narration)
Download Presentation slides from this site (just the slides)
Listen and view recording of the webinar including the slides (the whole thing ! )

I hope you like it and find it useful.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leadership in Social Media in Emergency Management

It's been a while since my last post. Slightly busy at work and at home. But I did have some time to think.

One topic I've been pondering for a bit is leadership in the age of social media as it applies to emergency management. I consider myself lucky to play a small part in an online (Twitter) group where some of the leading thinkers in the applications of SM in EM congregate. 

Just follow the #smem on Twitter and their chat (#smemchat) on Fridays and you'll get to see who they are. Some of the fantastic work done has found a place to stay at :

So, what makes these fine folks effective leaders? 

A leader (in SMEM and otherwise), prods people along when they show reluctance to adopt news technology or embrace open thinking, convinces senior executives and elected officials on the value of SM, demonstrates it by showing ROI, but never preaches.

A SMEM leader works to build consensus within his/her organization and more broadly across many contacts in real life or online. A leader will also act when necessary to demonstrate the value of SM as alerting tools or as "force-multipliers" in broadening situational awareness (by integrating it in crisis mapping/crowdsourcing activities).

Basically a leader is an SMEM champion, in his/her respective agency but also with its stakeholders. A leader uses SM to its fullest degree as a continuous professional learning tool in all aspects of EM.

A leader does MORE

  • Motivates and mentors
  • Overcomes resistance to change though solid arguments and perseverance 
  • Responds to the needs of his/her constituency to close the gap between public expectations and his/her agency's procedural or technical capabilities
  • Establishes a long-term vision toward an integrated use of SM in EM (all pilars/all functions of the EOC) but also has the skills to manage the transition and the long trip down the road to a community-based operating picture.
When a leader has demonstrated all of those traits and is still asked to do MORE ... you know they have made a difference.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The role of social media in public alerting

Just posted my latest entry on PTSC-Online. It's all about the growing role of social networks in warning the public about impending emergencies.

Recent event in the United States have shown the value of Twitter as an emergency information and notification tool. Here's an excerpt of the post:

In many cases, that unofficial tool, volunteer/citizen-driven, is faster, more responsive and more accurate than warnings provided through official means. But does that mean that Twitter should be at the top of your notification process? What place should it occupy on your notification checklist? 
While not a perfect tool, I would venture that changing expectations among our audiences have made social networks, one of the first (if not the first) elements of your notification and alerting systems that should be activated. Is that a stretch? I don't believe so. An overreliance on traditional broadcasters can really limit the effectiveness and reach of your alerts when some stats indicate that as many as 40 per cent of the population doesn NOT watch TV, listen to the radio or read newspapers. They get their info online, primarily through social networks.
What do you think ? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Crisis communications in the age of social convergence

Hello everyone!

I did a presentation today to a group of media relations officers and other officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A great bunch of candidates on the course, some of whom I worked with during my secondment to the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) working on the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit. It was great seeing them again!

I had the advantage of following Sgt. Tim Burrows from the Toronto Police Service (on Twitter:

@TrafficServices) who did a masterful job speaking on social media and law enforcement. I took over with my presentation on the impact of social media on crisis comms planning.

A few key points from today and they follow what my good friend Gerald Baron posted earlier today on some reasons why crisis communications plans fail. One more reason I'd add to the ones listed in Gerald's piece: executives and elected officials putting the plan aside and improvising ...

Back to the observations of the day:

  1. If you're not doing social media, either as part of your normal comms/outreach or as a crisis communications tool, you're in the wrong business ...
  2. using SM tools does not mean you can control the information (see Jim Garrow's post on that)
  3. establishing a solid presence on social networks will help you deal with a crisis when it arises.
  4. organizations that operate (both in routine and in crisis) under a philosophy of transparency and openness, do better in the age of social convergence
  5. in a crisis (or disaster), your audiences, clients, stakeholders will want to participate, be involved and not simply be victims, witnesses or passive observers ...
  6. social media is a great amplifier ... in a crisis it will help bring to light the good and the bad and will immensely increase expectations for prompt information/response coming from you
  7. the only way to cope with the increased expectations: having a sound crisis comms plan that is exercised often, flexible, adaptable and integrates SM.

Hope this makes some sort of sense!