Using Social Media to Communicate Emergency Response


Yesterday Dave Lawry and I presented Using Social Media to Communicate Emergency Response at the 2013 APWA North Amercian Snow Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was fun to give the presentation with Dave because he had some interesting first-hand experiences with implementing social media as a communication tool, particularly during snow operations. His stories came from when he was serving as the Director of Public Works for the city of Elgin in Ill. – some of what they had done has been covered by this blog over the years.

APWA North American Snow Conference Session

About a year or so ago, Dave moved on to take a position with Chastain and Associates. But even though he is no longer with a city, he continues to encourage and help others in local government with figuring out how best to implement the use of social media. Today Dave led a roundtable discussion at the conference to further explore the topic and share thoughts. He sent me an email and said, "The followup round table was well attended today with two from the class yesterday wishing to continue the discussion. My table was full." Even though I would have liked to attend, I had to return to Illinois because of other commitments so missed the discussion, but I am sure based on the questions we got yesterday it was helpful and informative.

Fortunately I'll be able to work again with Dave in the Fall when we discuss Social Media and Public Works at the 12th Annual Public Service Institute on Oct. 8, 2013, in Effingham, Ill. Our presentation will be given as part of IPSI – a leadership and management program held each year for one week in Illinois. The entire program, which focuses primarily on public works, spans a three-year time period. Last year was my first year of training, and I plan to return this year not only to help Dave with the social media session, but also to go for my second year as a student. As anyone who has attended will tell you, the highlights of the program are Lewis and Mary Bender – the two incredible people who are responsible for organizing and hosting the whole event. Lew also teaches most of the sessions. If you haven't gone yet, I highly recommend you consider going. Just meeting Lew and being able to learn from his years of wisdom makes it all worth it by itself. But the added benefit is you'll also be able to network with and learn from other public works people from all over Illinois. It's really one of the few training opportunities we have for learning how to manage in the unique setting in which we all work. And I'm sure as part of our session at IPSI, Dave and I will be able to further explore the use of social media as a communication tool during emergencies. (Note that I am no longer with the employer shown on the schedule – I've since accepted a position with another governmental agency.)

But for now, you can view the presentation we gave yesterday here:



Government 2.0 Camp – Pillars of Strategy

(Because I could not get an Internet signal during this presentation, I took notes and have posted them below. The post is in the format of a live feed of comments and information rather than a typical blog post.)

The Pillars of Strategy to Consider When Implementing Social Media:

• Policy
• Content
• Channel Integration
• Strategy
• Experimenting
• Legal/Political/compliance
• Leadership
• Stakeholders
• Applications
• Technology
• Listening
• Audience – knowing who
• Empowering
• Acting
• Respect
• Budget
• Two way conversations (TSA has case studies on collaboration with their stakeholders)

These pillars were decided upon based on the following input:

• 1.5M Federal regulations
• What is social government? Sounds like a misnomer but there are a lot of ideas out there on the net about this. Is there a way to define what is the space of social media and government?
• What are you trying to get at it? Engagment?
• There is a lot we can do to distribute relevant and good information.
• This needs to be successful and useful.
• The Myth of Digital Democracy – book.
• Collective action – example of how people gamed the Obama town hall and just wanted to talk about “weed.”
• There has to be an authoritative source.
• How to listen or how to define the value.
• Do most people not understand that this is more interactive? Do people understand they can get online and engage with government? The difference between 1.0 and 2.0.
• Who is using it? There has to be other channels to get the other information. Twitter is a little bit to the left. Echo chambers. How do you engage those who are exclusive of social media?
• Multiple avenues to engage – public forums, traditional media, Web sites. Social media is only one avenue, not the only one. But it is important to be part of it and use it as one of the avenues.
• We need to tie Social media together with the other avenues.
• Example used of is only voluntary participation by agencies.
• Information gets stuck in agencies in the middle. If leadership really wants it but doesn’t have access does this represent an opportunity of how to implement social media?
• Bureaucracy is sometimes needed for some agencies to allow for decision making. A hierarchy always exists – there is always one person who finally makes the decision. This is the leadership element to ultimate government decision making.
• Challenge is trying to take it all in at once. Myriad of possibilities and opportunities. Look at your external audience and how they use media then look at your internal group. Then look at how they consume media. We are still using the telegraph process to issue press releases. Strategically plan your external and your internal channels and try not to do it all at once.
• What is our degree of comfort with allowing citizens to change regulations and policy?
• Can apply social media in many ways to change government: how to optimize interagency processes, in the past many would never have left their mark because they were buried in the structure. Change the relationship to stakeholders.
• Creation of policy is also a target to hit using social media. Use the tools to help you develop policy. You have a hierarchy of decision making and you have a process. But our society is in a transitional period. You can exclude a large segment if you are not careful. Don’t lose sight that your customer might not be comfortable with the tools. But is this their problem?
• Integrate all the channels. Determine task then how we are going to accomplish that. Identify the multiple channels to use. A lot of times the message is not well coordinated between all the channels.
• Try it and see what happens. But concern remains about the legal ramifications. When did it become not acceptable to fail?