Communicate in a way that fits your target audience to make sure they receive the message. Your network expects you to interact with them via the communication channels you used prior to the crisis (the pre-crisis phase). For example, if you use Facebook in a pre-crisis situation, your followers will expect you to also use this type of media application when a crisis situation occurs. So be consistent and use the social media accounts you set up in the pre-crisis phase and/or communication channels that your target audience uses. Finally, tailor the message to your target audience to make sure they find it relevant and understand it. Be aware that some communication channels may be down; therefore you may need to spread your message through different channels.
- Disseminate information directly to relevant parties: authorities, support organizations and/or citizen groups.
- Communicate through old and new communication technologies.
- Be consistent! Use your pre-existing social media accounts to communicate crisis management information to your network. Avoid starting to use new social media applications during crisis situations.
- Ensure that the information you share through social media is relevant for both your target audience and the social media platform.
- Ensure that the information you share is easy to understand.
The international private organization Partners in Health (PIH) used social media extensively during the Haiti earthquake in 2010. It was able to disseminate information from its colleagues in Haiti immediately after the disaster. Having a social media plan in place greatly facilitated mobilizing the online resources immediately.
PIH’s activity during the earthquake greatly enhanced its network. “PIH’s Facebook group jumped from 4,000 fans before the disaster to nearly 50,000 since, and their Twitter account, @PIH_org, has added nearly 500 followers per day since the quake.”
During the Boston Marathon Bombings the American Red Cross used Twitter to disseminate information to the public. They also used their ‘Safe and Well’ website for people in the crisis area to enter information regarding their welfare so family and friends could check their wellbeing. Both Twitter and the website had been established prior to the bombings.