A crisis communications success story
From late December 2010 to early January 2011, massive flooding occurred throughout Queensland, Australia. The crisis tested the mettle of first responders and government agencies alike, and also, as in most recent disasters, highlighted the importance and effectiveness of technology and social media in crisis management.
In an article for Social Media Today, Stephen Collins describes a prime example, the Queensland Police Service:
- QPS presence in social media (on Facebook) was signed off May 10 2010 at Deputy Commissioner level as a six month trial. As a early December 2010, prior to the floods, they had 6000 “Likes” on their Facebook page. They were delighted at this point and had no idea what was to come;
- the entire media team is responsible for social media and it is tightly integrated into other comms and public safety work;
- QPS has no formalised social media policy. It has become a case of just do it. The benefits are there to be realised. Kym noted specifically that as a part of QPS’ overall strategic communications that the social media component is the “easiest, fastest, most efficient way to get information to the people of Queensland as well as our media stakeholders.” She noted that elements of the traditional media have expressed a level of unhappiness that they are no longer the gatekeepers for information coming from QPS;
- social media “really provided a connection” to Queenslanders during the floods and now, on an ongoing basis as QPS has made real efforts to engage with their audience. The same material that goes out over social media goes out over more traditional channels such as radio and television;
- the dissemination of public safety information via social media is seen as having a direct correlation to saving lives. Clearance for information distribution is at the sworn officer level, as it is for discussions of such matters with the media and public generally. No additional clearance process is necessary. On the matter of officers using social media directly in the field, the matter is under consideration, but not ready for action;
- at 12 months into a serious effort on social media, QPS are “still new at this”;
- QPS media now has over 178,000 Likes on Facebook and has an active engagement with many of those people. Often, things are posted by the public on QPS’s Facebook page that they had not anticipated (examples were given such as family members of offenders and victims posting information or tributes). This does not stop them being posted. Little is ever removed unless it breaches the page code of conduct published there.
The QPS has not gained its massive following (and thus communication power) through marketing tricks or some type of voodoo, but by engaging the public at a personal level while continuing to deliver pertinent and timely information. It really is that simple. Give people a reason to come back and they will, in droves.
Kudos to the QPS for setting an example for fellow agencies, keep up the good work!
For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
[Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]