Bond University Social Media Lecture on Crisis Communications

This week I’ve been lucky enough to speak at Bond University about social media use in crisis communications. The Crisis Communications class are learning more about using various types of digital media combined with traditional media during a disaster and I spoke to both the undergrad and postgrad class on social media use during the Brisbane floods of 2011.

Social Media Prezi on the Brisbane Floods

To present the lecture on social media use during the Brisbane floods of 2011, I decided to use Prezi. I’d normally use PowerPoint, but I often get bored of it and think that most people have seen more than their fair share of PowerPoint in their time. Prezi is a pretty cool little tool, but be warned, it does take a lot longer than using PowerPoint, but the end result is better in my humble opinion.

Brisbane City Council and Social Media

One of the areas that the students at Bond Uni were most interested in was how Brisbane City Council used social media as a way of communicating with Brisbane residents during the Brisbane floods. I explained to them that the use of social media was already in place at Council, so in some ways, we’d done the hard yards in that respect. We already had a team in place that understood the space and my role as Social Media Officer meant that I was prepared to use social media in a crisis communication situation. With the collapse of many websites in Brisbane due to heavy traffic demands on them, social media became a highly viable channel for sharing information, managing information and organising residents and volunteers.

Organising Information via Social Media in a Disaster

The lecture I was presenting at Bond was based around a case study approach, so it focused on a lot of practical tips and advice for engaging with a networked public via social media in a crisis communications situation. In particular I outlined to the students how important it was to utilise:

  • Facebook Notes – when 420 characters isn’t enough, get out urgent information via Facebook Notes. Also handy as you can link direct to the note from Twitter or other sites.
  • Twitter Lists – Set up Twitter lists containing all the credible, authoritative sources discussing the topic at hand. So, for instance, Brisbane City Council set up a QLDFloods List which contained sources such as SESBrisbane, QPSMedia, Energex and so on.
  • Create Hashtags – Using hashtags on Twitter to collate information on a subject is extremely important. During the Brisbane floods of 2011, Brisbane City Council created the #bnecleanup hashtag to arrange volunteers in the cleanup after the floods. The hashtag was extremely successful, reaching over 1.5 million people.

Communicate with the Masses, but don’t Forget Individuals

It’s really easy in a crisis to focus on the big picture, which is great and often most useful, however part of my lecture focused on individual case studies where Brisbane City Council used social media to help individuals directly also. In a crisis it’s easy to be swept up in emotion and forget that there are individuals out there needing help. One of the best things you can do is ensure you’re sharing the right information and try and engage with individuals where possible.

Know Your Team in Crisis Comms

Perhaps one of the foremost points to remember about using social media in a crisis, or indeed using any communications in a crisis, is that it’s imperative to know your team in advance. Knowing your team and their skills will make your life much easier should you be involved in a crisis. If you can, obtain all the information about your team’s skills and experience levels beforehand and keep these somewhere that everyone can access them. During a crisis you need to react quickly and not having confidence in your team can have a negative impact on the start to your social media crisis comms. During the Brisbane floods of 2011, Brisbane City Council already had a very capable team in place so this made planning and action much easier. Ensure your social media team are incorporating their crisis comms planning into the wider crisis comms plan before a disaster, it’ll be beneficial during it.

Crisis Communications at Bond University

It was an absolute joy to be able to do two lectures at Bond University this week. The classes were lovely, great students who were engaged and polite and it was heaps of fun to be lecturing again. It really reminded me how much I love teaching and why it’s so important to me to be able to talk publicly about social media and how important it is in not only crisis comms, but also wider marketing and communication planning.