Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hardware stores and Ebola

Yesterday, i helped organize a media event in our national capital. The location was a kind of mom-and-pop hardware store in a trendy part of Ottawa. Far from the suburbs and their imposing and shiny big box stores like Home Depot or Lowe's ... 

However, on this tranquil Tuesday morning, there were lots of people that came in off the streets in the couple of hours I helped set up the news conference. This got me thinking.

I focus a lot of my attention on social convergence ... the marriage of social networks and mobile technology. Hey, don't get me wrong! I still believe it's changed how people need to communicate during crises and how agencies need to manage emergencies. 

What i was thinking yesterday though, is that the old ways still have value. The old human approach ... interacting with people who know their stuff ... 

So if the "big box" types like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the new shinning tools in the EM tool box ... they might unfortunately take some luster off of some proven techniques.  In the current Ebola scare in the US and the rest of the western world, social networks are playing a big role in the spread of misinformation and the countering info put out by official agencies. 

And that's great! To combat rumours ,,,one needs to be on the very platform where they are being spread. The trick though is to not leave anyone behind and that's where the older approaches might present real value.

Think of the mom-and-pop store quality of brochures ... especially printed in various languages ... languages spoken by at-risk segments of the population ... the same applies to radio PSAs. 

Moreover, going door-to-door, chatting with people to calm their fears will often have the impact of a thousand tweets. The same goes with town hall meetings and group interactions focused on the community. 

Are they risky? Yes. All things can happen at those but good public health communicators and emergency managers shouldn't be afraid of a debate with the people they serve. 

So, yeah, I believe in socially convergent methods ... but I've said in many presentations and seminars ... the old adage still carries weight: all channels, all audiences ... 

It's just that SM allows for fast interactions in a world moving at the speed of the Twitter news ticker ... but even sprinters sometimes like to just stroll and take in the scenery. 

So big box or mom-and-pop, all destinations can serve a purpose ... a good thing to remember when thinking about risk and crisis communications.

No comments:

Post a Comment