Information is key during crises and steps need to be taken to ensure the circling information is relevant, accessible, clear and fully understandable. Therefore thought should be given to the (iconic) language and symbols to be used, while also trying to make it uniform and make the public familiar with your approach. While no single incident is exactly the same, every incident consists of similar phases. These phases can be addressed in your social media strategy. Communication messages for social media can be prepared for each phase. For instance, in case of a large-scale structural fire, there will be some deposition of dangerous substances from the smoke. This event can be predicted, as it will recur in many large-scale fires. A communication message could be prepared that states what people living in downwind areas should do when they find substances in their garden, like fragments from a large explosion.
- Appoint social media watchers and communicators that will analyse and manage the information flow on social media during crises.
- Examine and adapt to broadly accepted language and/or symbols that other relevant parties, especially official authorities, use.
- Start creating unique, compact and simple hashtags for high probability crises in your area.
- Consider liaising with other authorities and organizations to ensure a central hashtag is being used.
- Seek canonical symbols and icons for issuing disaster warnings.
- Seek unambiguous symbols representing certain crises.
- Start using these symbols in crisis-related communication prior to a crisis to ensure people are familiar with the symbols and their associated meanings.
- When operating in cross-border crises, keep in mind that these symbols can vary between countries.
Consider establishing hashtag standards as developed by UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)