I have written previously about the Boston Explosion, and lessons my force learnt from that experience on how to use social media more effectively.
The critical point is that social media can be used for public order, critical incidents, neighbourhood policing…indeed all areas of policing.
Forces must engage early to build the relationships that can be used in emergency situations. Build trust early so people believe what you say. Build a community online that can assist in rumour killing, requests for help and clear up and investigation.
So if the unexpected happened to your organisation – how prepared are you? What is your support network on social media? A few suggestions to help:
Have ICT that works with social media sites – sounds obvious, but in the recent riots several forces had to rely on personal laptops and 3g dongles to access the internet, as force networks were too restrictive.
Have communications and operational people next to each other and talking about what they are seeing and saying, and what they see the public saying via social media.
Use the contacts you have built up in peacetime to get your messages out – youth clubs, businesses, local celebrities – all these can help in times of crisis.
Use the hashtag that is being used by the public, or if there isn’t one, create one. (Beware of hashtags that are rude or offensive however).
Plan for the transition from a steady state to an emergency situation where communications may need to be more controlled than usual. Also plan for an orderly transition back to a steady state once the emergency is over.
Organisations that are leaders in their field have many of the following characteristics – both for online activites and offline:
- Prepare in peace time rather than at war
- Have leadership buy in
- Establish engagement at a local level, not at a corporate communications level alone
- Consider the impact of both digital and traditional communications