The information landscape keeps on transforming, and social media platforms stand as a key component for communication agendas, including within Risk Management operations. The key to effective usage lies in setting clear objectives, knowing your audience, and leveraging established methods.
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
During health crises and in raising awareness about Climate Change, social media have significantly revolutionised traditional communication strategies: from the traditional top-down models – where institutions inform citizens – we have witnessed the creation of new collaborative and bidirectional communication, empowering users to be not only receivers of news, instead active participants in generating and sharing information. This shift significantly impacts risk management, prompting organisations and experts to ask:
How can social media fit into an effective Risk Management plan?
Understanding the role of social media in risk management strategies involves a layered approach and relies heavily on the initial objectives and the outcomes generated by its usage. Similar to classic media forms, social media must be thoroughly studied to understand its opportunities and weaknesses.
RISK MANAGEMENT: THE 12 ESSENTIAL PRACTICES IN USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Before integrating social media into a risk management strategy, an organisation needs to clearly outline its goals, define the targeted audience, and segment the communication strategy into three critical phases: before, during, and after a crisis. Based on these requirements, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report identified 12 essential practices in using social media within a risk and emergency management strategy:
1. Raising Public Awareness of Risks and Crises
Social media extends communication to a broad population range, such as younger citizens who rely less on traditional media such as radio, TV, and newspapers. This practice helps reduce dependence on usual communication channels and develop new campaign types using personalised tones and creative digital tools.
2. Enhancing Crisis Monitoring and Real-Time Awareness
The consumption of online content, from videos to text messages, plays a crucial role in real-time crisis management. Collecting and disseminating information about emergencies boosts public awareness and fosters a proactive approach through data collection and citizen volunteer initiatives.
3. Improving Preparedness
Social media platforms offer a powerful tool to boost preparedness by reaching diverse audience groups with tailored communication. By carefully choosing the tone and style of messaging, we can not only speed up the dissemination of crucial information but also curb the proliferation of misinformation.
4. Providing Information and Warnings
Blogs, online forums, and other digital channels can offer useful advices and warnings, like emergency phone numbers, facility locations, and evacuation routes.
5. Enhancing Crisis Response through Volunteer Mobilisation
Online volunteers can be an effective resource for transmitting information to emergency services and improving situational awareness. As mentioned before, the broad reach of volunteers is essential, highlighting their significant contribution to effective communication during emergencies
6. Identifying Survivors and Victims
Using social media to identify survivors and victims is a practice not widely used yet but has shown excellent results where implemented.
7. Managing Reputation Effects
In emergency scenarios, online volunteers rise as key players in monitoring and managing the spread of false information. For an organisation, being absent from digital platforms means missing out on crucial conversations, potentially leading to the spread of false or not accurate information. A strong digital presence is essential for swiftly mitigating adverse situations.
8. Fostering donations during fundraising campaigns
During catastrophes, while many citizens are eager to help those affected, they may struggle with identifying trustworthy channels. Social media represents a powerful channel to enhance fundraising efforts and foster donations, by providing a reliable platform for those wishing to contribute.
9. Leveraging social media for Post-Crisis analysis
In the aftermath of a crisis, social media emerges as a powerful tool for rebuilding efforts. In fact, the integration of real-time posts and images with mapping technologies allows for a detailed temporal reconstruction of events, revealing critical weak points. This method not only aids in immediate recovery but also facilitates cross-disciplinary scientific dialogue, leading to the creation of advanced preventative measures.
10. Enhancing Collaborative Efforts among partners (national, international, public, and private)
International and public-private cooperation can be strengthened by establishing dialogue on social media. The challenge lies in aligning the varied interests and backgrounds of involved entities. To address this, a strategic risk communication plan is essential, one that upholds consistent communication and encourages the pooling and comparison of different areas of expertise.
11. Deliver rapid Response, and Enhances Credibility
Maintaining a steady and scheduled presence on social media can lead to the establishment of a dedicated follower base. This approach is crucial in enhancing trust in public spaces, as research indicates a direct correlation between citizen involvement and increased trust in authorities.
12. Improving Recovery and Resilience Management
By analysing social media trends and discussions, authorities and aid organisations can pinpoint population segments most affected by stress or trauma in the aftermath of a crisis. This enables the delivery of tailored support and resources to those who need it most, enhancing the effectiveness of post-crisis interventions.