The Public Relations Strategist

Effective Social Media Strategies During Times of Crisis: Learning from the CDC, HHS, FEMA, the American Red Cross and NPR

Publication Date: 2009, Summer

Source: SO02 Public Relations Strategist
Product Code: 6K-030907
Organization/Author/Firm: Tim L. Tinker, / Michael Dumlao, / Grant McLaughlin
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To explore the expanding use of social media in emergency communications, the American Public Health Association, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., The George Washington University, The International Association of Emergency Managers and The National Association of Government Communicators sponsored the “Expert Roundtable on Social Media and Risk Communications During Times of Crisis: Strategic Challenges and Opportunities,” held on March 31 in Washington, D.C.

Social media is not only an effective tool for monitoring and engaging public discourse during the crisis process, but also enables the cultural shift regarding how the public views its role as an empowered contributor. Emergency management and crisis communications have become more participatory. This has been illustrated repeatedly — including by the speed with which people shared information (and misinformation) on Twitter during the H1N1 flu crisis and the media’s reliance on victims’ mobile-enabled status updates during the Mumbai terrorist attack last November.

At the roundtable, panelists shared experience and insights into how their organizations leverage social media platforms to empower and manage public outreach. The following mini case studies were gleaned from presentations given by representatives from federal agencies, national organizations and the media.
o The CDC’s “Tip of the Week”
o HHS’s peanut blog
o FEMA’s social branding
o The Red Cross’s disaster Flickrs
o NPR’s newsgathering via tags