If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you understand that social
media is increasingly becoming a part of all of our lives, whether or
not we hold accounts or participate personally. By the nature of the
social media, others using it influences how they act.
And boy are others using it.
It’s become such a hot topic that, earlier this year, the fine folks
at the National Emergency Management
Association allowed some social media
thought-leaders the opportunity to hold a series of workshops about
social media’s use in emergency management, preparedness and response.
I was lucky enough to have been invited to that day and met folks who
are the drivers of the movement to integrate social media into
emergency work; truly, my heroes.
On that day, there was also a team of researchers from CNA Analysis
and Solutions on site to collect information on
the proceedings and produce a white paper on the subject of social
media and emergency management. That white paper is being released
In an effort to highlight some of the most important parts of the CNA
white paper, a number of emergency management, public information and
homeland security bloggers are posting about parts of the report that
resonate with them. Once those posts go live, I’ll do my best to
update this post and link to them. I, as you can guess, immediately
wanted to talk about how social media affects our messaging in a
positive way. (Beyond teaching PIOs how to think in 140-character
The first, and probably most important, improvement to our messaging
as a result of using social media is the ease of developing a constant
media stream. Due to forced character-count limitations, we cannot
dispense messages in a traditional press release format; we’ve instead
got to just push out the update, as directly as possible. I think this
is a good thing for a couple of reasons: first, it expands the
audience for your message. While the media might benefit from the
comprehensiveness of a press release, most of the public can’t read
them, but would appreciate short, two-sentence-long updates explicitly
about the situation or topic. Second, short messaging allows you to
build a timeline of your incident. Outside of actionable
recommendations that should be repeated, updates can be posted once
and referred to. What a great way to supplement your IAP!
Another way social media has changed our messaging is what the CNA
report refers to as “force multiplication.” Due to the ease of sharing
social media messages (which is built into every social media
property), our messaging does not have to reach every single person in
your public first-hand. Every person that does receive your message
and finds it interesting or useful has the opportunity to share it
with their friends, thereby increasing your reach exponentially. Aside
from simple person-to-person sharing, I believe that a certain element
of trust comes into play as well. As fewer and fewer people trust
government messaging, hearing a message from self-selected friends and
close acquaintances increases the chance that people will listen and
integrate the message.
Finally, I think the coolest thing about how our messaging can change
is that we can now talk directly to our publics. Like those
much-maligned direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical commercials that
increased sales, we can now go around the traditional information
gatekeeper (in our case, the media). We now have the opportunity to
put out those supposed non-story stories, we can now avoid what
politicians are calling the “media filter.” We don’t have to depend on
what the news producers feel has “made the cut” for their broadcasts.
We can finally push out those good stories that we wish the public
would know about.
These changes being wrought are the perfect example of a sea change.
Be sure to download the full report here to
learn all about the future of our jobs.