What a privilege to play an active role in one of the most important conferences around risk and crisis communication. Booz Allen Hamilton working with Homeland Defense Journal put together a conference for top-level communicators and policy makers in Washington DC on Tuesday. Nearly 200 participated. I was fortunate to be a presenter and the moderator of an outstanding panel that included Neil Chapman, a top communicator for BP in London, Butch Kinerny, head of communications for FEMA’s Mitigation Directorate (I kidded him that it would take a good communicator to explain that title), and Michael Dumlao, a very impressive young social media designer with Booz Allen Hamilton.
We heard from General Russel Honore, the Army general charged with leading the Katrina response, and Dr. Vincent Covello, the nation’s top expert on Risk Communication.
As crisisblogger readers will recognize, I talked about the need for ever faster, more direct and more transparent communication as we move more completely into a world of 140 character headlines, twitter feeds from all over, 300 million on-the-scene reporters, etc.
There is no question that government agencies are struggling mightily with the sea change underway–and I don’t just mean the election that was just concluded. It is the even more massive change in how the public gets information, how they process it, how they participate in the process.
I have to say and perhaps it is not surprising, but some of the most insightful analysis and comments of the entire session came from the youngest presenter–Michael Dumlao. He made it very clear that to continue to think in this environment that you can “control” the information is simply ludicrous. You only have one decisiosn to make–do you participate or not. Some will conclude if they cannot control it they will not participate. Too bad for them. He also asked this stunning question of all these government agency leaders and communicators: What is your wikipedia policy?
What a great question.
What is yours?