“Get on Social Media”

Sometimes I worry that I write too much about social media on this blog. With events like H7N9 and the atrocity in Boston earlier this week, should I be focused more on the job that government communicators are doing: media relations, crafted statements, subject matter experts usage, press releases? But then events like H7N9 and the bombing happen, and there are such amazing lessons to be learned about how social media is influencing and remaking government communicators’ jobs that I literally can’t help myself. This is what government communicators’ jobs will be.

Since the Boston bombings are so fresh on everyone’s mind, I want to start there.

I don’t want to talk about how I found the first pictures of the scene FIVE minutes after the first bomb went off and informed my chain of command, who at first didn’t believe me because it wasn’t on any news sources yet.

I don’t want to talk about how we utilized our newly updated emergency public information plan that requires us to review all scheduled social media posts and cancel any inappropriate ones.

BombSquadInvestigation_1366058477334_401532_ver1.0_640_480

Instead, I want to talk about sweeping streets for secondary devices. If you followed the events on Monday afternoon, you’ll remember the frantic search of every package, bag and box in most of metro Boston. The Explosive Ordnance Tech (EOD) teams wanted everyone off the streets so they could work quickly without putting the public in harm’s way. This one-minute snip of a call came over the EMS radio talkgroup:

In the middle of the biggest emergency to hit Boston in years, with lives hanging in the balance, it was decided the best way to get information–critical, life-protecting information–to the public, where they were at the moment, was to, “get on social media.” Not tell the media, not issue a press release; when seconds counted and thousands needed to be warned, social media was the right tool. In different situations, something else may have worked better, but in this emergency social media was right choice.

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“Get on Social Media”

4 thoughts on ““Get on Social Media”

  1. Nice post Jim! I picked up on the exact same thing–I was shocked to hear the police commander immediately request social media in the same breathe as ordering victims removed and EOD to sweep the streets. Very gripping to say the least.

  2. As a PIO who has worked several incidents in the Midwest, social media is the best and most effective tool to communicate information to the people as well as the media. During a recent police action shooting and manhunt, our social media was put to the test and we were shocked, pleased and inspired by the amount of “hits” we received. Social media has escalated higher than ever as a front line defense tool to protect our tax payers and visitors in our jurisdiction.

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