Monday, November 3, 2014

Ebola, crisis communications and social networks ... diverging views

logoI've had the pleasure to work with a fantastic group of people at the Canadian CBRNE Collaborative

 Here's a little bit about what they're about:
This collaborative is for Health Care Providers professionals, learners and volunteers who may be called to assist in the event of a public health emergency due to a CBRNE event.

One of the collaborative’s goals is to transform the meaning of CBRNE. Why?  Those letters represent greater threats when natural and accidental events are included.
The collaborative has recently made available a series of webinars focused on everything from hospital preparedness (in dealing with possible Ebola cases), best practices on PPE, psycho-social casualties in CBRNE events and more. You can find the videos here.

I've worked on the communications aspect of CBRNE readiness focusing on crisis comms planning and the growing role of social networks. I'm extremely fortunate to have been able to bring into the conversation, two reputed crisis management experts: Melissa Agnes from Agnes + Day in Montreal ... and Gerald Baron from Agincourt Strategies in the US.

Those who read this blog know that I consider Melissa and Gerald among the top experts in the application of social convergence in crisis communications and friends/colleagues to boot ... 

My first conversation with Melissa Agnes focused on social networks as crisis management tools in the healthcare/public health sectors: 

The second conversation involved Gerald Baron and looked at ways of using rumours shared/transmitted via social networks to your advantage: 

In addition, a former CBC reporter did a fantastic webinar on crisis comms ... all about the age-old "who's in charge?" question and what makes a good spokesperson ...well worth watching ... 

Finally, I read a blog post which drew conclusions about the impact of social convergence (mobile tech + social networks) in the Ebola crisis that I completely disagree with. Here's an excerpt:
Most of these tweets are retweets of inaccurate information or intend on spreading fear. It has proved effective in doing so. So fearful, it has impacted the foreign policy of three nations that historically never cut off humanitarian aid; AustraliaIsrael, and Canada by halting all humanitarian operations and travel visas to and from the region.  

Really, those rumours on Twitter changed the foreign policy of three first-World countries? 

Here is another paragraph from the blog post ... I'm not quite sure where these conclusions come from ... when many indications are that tech tools such as What's App, SMS and social networks are being used effectively to combat rumours on Ebola ...
Social media is not read in West Africa. Little do they know, it is hurting the regions ability to recover with resources that traditionally send aid in times of need. Social Media is destroying humanitarian aid to all three nations affected.
While I certainly don't believe social convergence is a panacea for humanity's troubles during uncertain times and in disasters ... I do know that mobile devices and social networks offer tools to help improve response capabilities, speed up recovery, boost community resilience and help fight dangerous rumours. 

Frankly, I wait for stronger arguments to change my mind ! 


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