Thursday, October 27, 2011

Of trust, social and public alerting

A few things tonight.

First, a little blurb about trust. My friend James Garrow wrote a very good blog post on that topic today. It explores the steps needed to gain trust before and during any emergency or crisis:
For all of the “be first, be right, be open,” there is one thing, though, that seems to underpin both situations: trustworthiness.
Jim cites a great article from the Wall Street Journal on this very topic.  For me, the key lesson is that trust is the only currency that PIOs have to ensure they are not only heard, but that their messages are acted upon. It's as simple as that. You can be swift, occupy the public space at the onset but if you don't prove to be trustworthy, people will ignore you.

Another truth: don't lie! Seems simple, yet, we saw examples of misdirection, misinformation and outright falsification of facts during the aftermath of the Tsunami in the nuclear disaster that followed in Fukushima. Despite all the early assurances from both the utility (TEPCO) and the Japanese government, things turned out to be worse than anyone had imagined. 

Trust is a hard earned currency. When authorities squander it, people will turn to more credible organizations, often ordinary citizens and volunteers. In a whirlwind of violence, Mexicans have had to grapple with extreme depravity shown by the drug cartels and complete incompetence married with corruption from their government officials, Who to trust? 

That is at the center of efforts to help communities deal with the ongoing violence with crowdsourcing and crisis mapping. A few thoughts on that process here.

Tonight's second topic deals with the "social" component of SM as public alerting tools. I've been thinking a lot lately on the usefulness of social networks as alerting channels. They offer another set of methods to reach wide audiences (in addition to things such as sirens, reverse 9-1-1, electronic notification system, etc.). 

The strength of social media as alerting tools comes from .... well, their social nature. See this great presentation on the role of SM in that process. The principles behind social networks are not new. They have been here for centuries. It's about relationships. In a crisis, people turn to people they know and trust. The become even more social. Social media then become "force multipliers" in terms of your alerting process by greatly enhancing that process of peer-to-peer information sharing.

That can be especially useful when some of your other alerting tools become less useful as suggested in the quote below from the Joplin Globe's coverage on a federal report:
The investigators, who interviewed more than 100 people, found that many of them said that they “hear sirens all the time” and that they are “bombarded with sirens so often that we don’t pay attention.”
In addition. adding social media to your array of public alerting channels can be cost effective in an era of tight budgets. Using social networks to alert your citizens of impending disasters is certainly part of the two-way dialogue that SMEM proponents champion everyday , including the head of FEMA.

Again, I hope to hear from you.

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