Tag Archives: public information

Reaching saturation? Social media worries, inanities and limitations

I was reminded by a conference organizer that I need to get my presentation in soon for a presentation in Houston in early October. My response was, but the whole world might change by then and it will be outdated.

That’s how fast things seem to be evolving in the world of public information. Social media, of course, is the driver. Here are a few tidbits to illustrate the struggle of trying to understand and manage what is going on.

Social media is turning into a great big headache for CEOs and executives. This study shows that the two main worries (understandable I might add) are cutting into employee productivity and reputation damage.

Everybody’s talking about Twitter, twittering, tweeting, wasting time, etc. As this YouTube video shows, those pundits and news commentators are struggling like many others with what to do with all this and how seriously to take it. Thanks Paul for the headsup on this clip.

But what is Twitter and other text-based messaging doing to our communication and language? Wall Street Journal has a humorous and somewhat frightening take on this. It shows what happens if you misunderstand LOL and think it means Lots of Love instead of Laughing Out Loud.

And then there’s the vulnerability of Twitter and their lack of reliability. My understanding is that Twitter was down 85 hours last year. And just in the last few days experienced a three hour outage due to denial of service attacks. This is a significant issue for those considering Twitter as a critical element of crisis or emergency communications.

And then there’s the growing backlash–particularly against Twitter it seems but social media in general. Perhaps it is too much to call it a backlash, but there certainly is recognition that social media remains largely a domain of the digital natives–the younger generation who seems to have the time for all the tweeting (a mystery to me) and more significantly, an interest in the inane particularities of their friends’ and associates’s lives. This survey shows that 87% of adults say they prefer to deal directly with people. Count me in with the majority.

Swine Flu–now it gets serious

As I write this, Mexico has just announced 149 deaths to swine flu. And, a few minutes ago, that city was rocked by a 6.0 earthquake. 40 cases of swine flu now reported in US. World Heath Organization on brink of declaring a pandemic, elevating the status to 4 or 5. Travel advisories going out.

And I’m trying to write a new presentation for the emergency management group of one very large federal agency on the importance of Virtual Joint Information Centers .

Social media is absolutely abuzz with talk of swine flu. Here are a few resources that I am using to track and you might find useful as well:


gizmodo–map showing new cases (actually using google map tracking service)



Some good advice from a communications professional: BrianMcDaniel

Now a word about Virtual JICs:

A JIC is a Joint Information Center. The MANDATORY (under National Incident Management System) assemblage of Public Information Officers from responding agencies to gather in a physical location to work together to communicate about the response. So if the event is a pandemic, the communicators are ordered to get together in a room so they can get the message out to everyone else to not do as they are doing. Sorry, doesn’t make sense to me. Especially since it has been very well established in major events including Hurricane Katrina that a dispersed communication team can operate very effectively using appropriate web technology. What is appropriate web technology? Go here.

Here's proof positive–you can reduce the media onslaught

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.