1. Ensure a broad scope and high impact & consider your communication venue

To report most successfully, to a broad audience it is best to organize beforehand and create a large network etcetera in advance, since citizen journalists initially mainly reach people in their own network. In order to enhance the chance that your messages reach your target audience and have the desired effect, you have to adapt your communication to fit your target audience and goal. Part of this is using the communication venues your target audiences uses and communicate in the way: e.g., language, your target audience would. Adding relevant keywords and hashtags also ensures your target audience can find your message.

Key steps: 
  • Create (preferably pre-crisis) a large network (of followers).
  • Organize (preferably pre-crisis) as citizen journalists by creating a network and/ or subsequently try to use an account to which citizen journalists can login to disseminate information.
    • Some examples of worldwide websites for citizen journalism are Global Voices Online, Open Globe and Watchdog International.
  • When possible try sharing information in language(s) that will be accessible to people who are at the locus of the emergency.
    • Use English as a second language when a crisis has an international component
  • Use to the point, clear and easily understood language
  • Always consider which communication tool is the most appropriate, as the effectiveness of a tool depends on the type of crisis and the affected population
    • Use the communication tools your target group uses or are utilized by a large group of people. For example, it makes little sense to alert older people for an evacuation as a precaution by Twitter. It is better to use other means, such as the telephone or a direct house visit, thereby considering their needs.
    • Use blogs and social media to reach a large group of people in a short time
    • Using several communication channels maximizes your messages getting through, since some communication channels might be down.
  • Ensure that your content can be found by the intended audiences. Therefore e.g., utilize hashtags properly. For this purpose, familiarize yourself with the “Hashtag Standards for Emergencies” that are proposed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). To streamline the flow of information:
    • Use common hashtags that are being used by officials, or use a hashtag that is general but directed at the crisis, so others can use it as well.
    • Combine the geographical location/abbreviation and incident type in a hashtag that is agreed with officials.
  • Make a distinction between informing and instructing. You take on much more responsibility when instructing or advising people.
  • Ensure your messages get passed along:
    • Add value; if possible, add a hashtag, picture or direct link to every message.
    • Ask people to share/ retweet your information.
Guideline Category: