Local Governments and Disaster Communication with Social Media

By Justin Mosebach

From the recent earthquake to hurricanes and wildfires there certainly has been the need for residents to find out timely and useful information from their local government.

In my last post, I talked about How Local Governments Benefit from Social Media. This time, let’s talk about some keys to communicating during a natural disaster.

1.       Link social media to information on your website.

Some people might not think to check your government website for information during (or after) a natural emergency situation. But, they might check their Facebook or Twitter account and happen to see what you’ve posted in their news feed. So be sure to link people to important information.

This also means that you’re going to want to have a following before an event like a hurricane happens. You can’t broadcast information to people who aren’t listening. So work on sending out interesting and useful information on a regular basis so that when an earthquake hits, you’ll be more easily able to send information to citizens.

2.     Keep the updates coming!

Don’t just send out an initial post and not follow it up with more recent information. This is relevant to both your social media outlets and to your website. If you’ve got more news or tips for safety, let the public know.

You’re going to become a less-relevant source if you don’t keep the information coming. People will turn to other sources if you stop – and those sources might not be accurate.

3.     Use different media.

Don’t just use text on your website. Yes, words on a page are important, but give your audiences’ eyes a break! Share photos and charts of what to do. Setup a webcam to broadcast what it looks like outside your office (especially if there’s flooding or snow). Use video to communicate important information to your citizens. Mix it up. It will help keep your citizens engaged. After all, the saying is that a photo is worth 1,000 words!

Here’s what Elgin, IL did for communicating during a snow event this past winter.

What other ideas do you have? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo credits:


Bottom: NASA Earth Observatory


Disclaimer: I work for an IT company that (among other things) has products dealing w/ transparency, gov’t, & technology (including video). The company works with government in multiple ways to help them with gov 2.0 and related technologies, as well as other clients not in the public sector

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