I’ve long said during my conference presentations that the very best way to reduce the onslaught of media calls during a major event is to push, push, push. Provide all those who ask (and those you think might ask) with a steady, continuous flow of information means the volume of calls will go down. Evidence? I’ve talked to crisis communicators using our crisis communication platform and they have told me it is true. But here is stronger evidence.
As unbelievable as it sounds, a columnist from a local Houston area newspaper loudly praised the efforts of Houston area public officials. Columnist Cheryl Skinner complimented the officials (by name) for keeping up a steady flow of information during the storm and the recovery:
And, I mean steady! Day and night the e-mails with the latest closings, recovery reports, health hazards and anything related to Hurricane Ike and recovering from the storm were sent in volume.
For the media this meant being able to pass on the information without hours of searching for someone to talk to.
That’s the part that is critical. They didn’t have to search–which saved them time and effort and made them look better. Plus, they didn’t ghave to pick up the phone and try calling 20 different people. Just imagine how many phone calls that saved.
For a more complete story about the Fort Bend County Public Information website, here’s the scoop.
Thanks to Neil Chapman, a crisisblogger reader and comms manager for a global company out of London, the use of twitter as a reporting tool during Hurricane Ike came to my attention. Reporter Leigh Jones of a Galveston newspaper is using twitter to post on-going mini-reports from the front line. It is fascinating and I strongly believe gives a very clear idea of the kind of reporting that will soon be standard. Note, each report is really a headline. Simple reason–tweets are text messages limited by many carriers to 140 characters are less. But a constant flow of headlines with the very latest is what today’s audiences want most. The details can wait and only for those interested in diving into the details. What is immediate–happening right now–is ultimately the only thing relevant for most audiences.
What that means is that communicators who need to communicate with internal and external audiences in an event such as Ike need to think like a reporter and do the same. Mini-reports of what is happening right now are the order of the day.
For those interested in how current communication technology is being used, might want to do a quick review of this article from PIER. (full disclosure–I’m the CEO). Twelve different organizations using PIER during Ike received over 5.7 million visits on their PIER websites in a few days. One of them nearly a million visits on their several sites with specific information. We will be providing a more detailed analysis of inquiry volume, numbers of text messages sent, etc. to help give some idea of the scale of organizational communication during a major event such as this.