Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Five Megatrends--and how they are shaping crisis communication

I'm once again stealing brilliance from others, but, hey, isn't that what blogging is all about?
Here's a very insightful article about the Five Megatrends impacting marketing. But these are also impacting crisis communication and the way we think, work, socialize and exist together in community. So here is my crisis communications take on these big ideas:

1) Mass collaboration is empowering the public's ability to get vital information.
I've blogged on this before including how emergency managers will react when the public knows more than they do. It is almost a certainty, because the internet and social networking are making it possible for those interested to learn so much, so quickly from so many. This is dramatically changing public information management and how the JIC operates. That is best summarized in repeating over and over: it's not about control, it's about participation. The messaging and information flow will go on, regardless of official's willingness to be part of it. It is participate or be ignored.

2) Constant connectivity in an on-demand world. People want information important to them right now, they want it in the way most convenient and useful for them, and they want it presented so they can quickly get to what is most relevant. That's always been true, but now there are so many choices and options--from traditional media, to social media and everything in between. Mobile devices, particularly those computers you carry in your pockets that you still think of as phones, are making us connected all the time. These are critical now but will become even more so. That means the demand for instant information, presented in the formats accessible by these devices, pushed via text and other alert methods when they want them, are all demands that will only increase.

3) Globalization is making the world a smaller place. McLuhan's global village has become an everyday reality. Anyone who has experienced a major incident in the last while and who has effectively monitored will agree that interested audiences are found all over. No more true than on issues of environmental disasters, health issues, food safety issues, etc. We not only are connected globally through trade, but through public policy interests. That means networks of those with strong interests are deeply in place and new ones can be created instantaneously. Communicators need to think not just about the local media, they need to think about how angry people across the globe may impact their world. It's not a tomorrow thing, it's definitely here right now.

4) Pervasive distrust in big corporations.
This is increasingly true by any measure including surveys and even casual observations of popular culture. Michael Moore's outsized rants only reflect a less extreme but very much ubiquitous attitude. But, if you are on the public side of the equation don't breathe too easy. This distrust, exhibited so stridently in the online world, extends to almost any organization seen to have too much power--and too much means almost any organization more powerful than the individual expressing that opinion. It means that if your organization is seen as responsible for bad things happening, it starts not on neutral ground with much of the populace, but already in a deep hole. Building trust when it is hitting the fan is hard enough, but when you start from a negative position before it even hits the fan, it gets a lot harder. But, that is the reality of the level of trust in our public and private institutions today.

5) A global sense of urgency to fix the problems of our world.
Well, what Adam Kleinberg is really referring to here is the global green movement. Yet his wording is right because there is a huge shift in values underway. Anyone spending time reading blog comments and observing the online conversation can see it. It is related to item 4 above, the green movement, healthier foods, simpler living, more relaxed (I would say grungy but I'm an old guy) fashion styles, and government doing more and more for us. Yes, it is political--ultimately everything is, but the political views need to be seen in light of the values that lay beneath them--that's why I like the way Kleinberg expressed this. The critical point for emergency management is that we must always remember that it is those people out there, in the hinterland, the amorphous crowd, who will ultimately decide the success or failure of your response. Perception is reality. And they will judge by their values, not yours. It's an important role that communicators need to play is helping evaluate all response plans and activities from a perception and values standpoint. The future and reputation of the response leaders as well as the response agencies is at stake.

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