Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Red Cross Survey Shows Absolute Necessity of Social Media in a Disaster

Yes, there are still holdouts in the emergency communications business. Still PIOs who think their job is to put out a press release or two and send to the media to communicate about a disaster response. Still some who doubt the importance of an incident website, interactive engagement with stakeholders and the public. And some who still say, "Twitter what?" "Facebook, hunh?"

Research just conducted by the American Red Cross should put any debate about this issue to rest. The essential message is that as more and more Americans turn to the Internet as a source of information, they use the Internet to gain the vital information they need. And this is especially true in serious emergencies or disasters. The sample of 1058 survey participants was drawn from people who volunteered for online surveys, so it cannot be said to represent the entire population. However, it clearly shows the high use of social media (75%) and the high expectation of direct engagement with the response organization through email, text, social media applications, etc.

This information is fully supported by our experience in helping manage communications during the Gulf Spill. 50,000 people added themselves to the mailing list to receive updates, and additional several thousand added themselves to individual state websites managed by BP. About 8000 signed up for text alerts, 40,000 as Facebook fans, 8500 as Twitter friends in addition to the over 2.5 million who viewed spill videos on YouTube and 250,000 who viewed the almost 1000 spill photos posted by Unified Command on Flickr.

Emergency communications is simply not the same game it was just a few short years ago. Today it is about engagement rather than pushing information. It is more about correcting all the wrong or twisted information that gets shared by others, than it is even about being the first source. It is about conversation, not proclaiming. The sooner PIOs and communication managers understand that, the faster response managers and Incident Commanders will understand that.

1 comment: