To enhance the clarity of information and increase its uptake the symbols used in crisis communication must clearly relate to the crises addressed and/ or be iconic or common. This is increasingly so when such symbols and language are used in a consistent manner and by all relevant parties. So it’s important to try and join existing practices to ensure continuity.
- Use the same canonical symbols and icons in communicating crisis information as used when issuing warnings.
- Adapt to broadly accepted language and symbols that other relevant parties use.
- Use existing, canonical Twitter hashtags for specific crisis situations rather than creating your own
- Identify and determine which hashtags officials use in the crisis/ are well established.
- Use the same hashtags and promote the use of these hashtags to facilitate information sharing.
- Otherwise create unique, compact and simple hashtags.
The Pacific Disaster Center uses the same symbols for warning and actual crises - the difference is indicated by the colour of the circle around it.
During the 2011 floods in Queensland, Australia the hashtag #qldfloods rapidly emerged as a central mechanism for coordinating discussion and information exchange related to the floods, leading several official sources such as the Queensland Police Service (OPS) to quickly adopt the #qldfloods hashtag for their own tweets. The QPS even amended its social media strategy: they started using Twitter rather than Facebook in lieu of some difficulties stemming from the Facebook medium.
Alternative hashtags such as #bnefloods and #thebigwet did not become equally prominent established. Most likely as Twitter users were trying not to fragment the conversation, but establish one official hashtag.