Little story today about problems at a tween star's autograph signing, but one with major implications for communicators who regularly use Twitter to advise, inform and attract people to events.
There are different versions of the story around - one says the executive was arrested for not tweeting when told, while another says it was because he tweeted too much, drawing a large, over-stimulated, hormone-fuelled crowd of screaming teens.
Whatever the actual situation, practitioners and communicators everywhere should take careful note of this one. For example, how does 'being ordered to communicate' sit with free speech? What if, in your professional opinion, tweeting would make the situation worse? And what impact would that have on your organisation's reputation?
Equally, in a 'non-democratic' environment, what if you are 'ordered' to tweet something that will put others in danger? And for the journalists who live tweet material - what if your story is the catalyst that causes chaos? What liability would mainstream media assume?
This is a small story about an action taken - or at very least suggested - by some US police officers. Its implications however, are enormous, not necessarily at this moment, but certainly as we rush towards the future. Bet there are a few people out there live tweeting events as I write. As the event manager are you at some point, going to be held responsible for what they say or the actions their tweets precipitate?
I know it's a consideration that I'll be building into programmes from here on in.
As I write, we are on another tsunami advisory following three more Pacific earthquakes, this time around Vanuatu. Whether the island will suffer the same terrible devastation and loss as Samoa and parts of Tonga we don't yet know - we can only hope that all are safe and that no lives are lost.
Here in New Zealand, I have been watching the Civil Defence communications with keen interest - more so than usual following recent events. I am flabbergasted that they are still relying on static web updates to communicate urgent information. Surely all major organisations must be aware that in today's communications environment if they don't fill the information void themselves, then someone else will - and in a crisis situation this in itself will add to misunderstanding, miscommunication and life-threatening mistakes.
Ironically, next week is Disaster Awareness Week, when we are all supposed to knuckle down and make sure we are prepared for the kind of natural disasters we have seen so frequently in recent months. Part of the Civil Defence advance promotion package includes a 'media kit' for participating organisations designed to help them disseminate 'key messages'. All the advice is centred entirely on old-school traditional mainstream media without the slightest acknowledgment that other forms of communication exist. The advice is also expensive as it suggests local media advertising as a major tactic. Will such a tactic add to a local programme given the extensive advertising campaign already running on national television? I don't think so.
If I was to name one single benefit of the online environment, it would be the ability to harness the power of social media tools in crisis communication. Sadly, the Civil Defence department doesn't seem to have grasped this, even though other emergency services around the world have seen, experienced and utilised the power of digital communication. Come on guys - at least tweet your updates. You have my phone number because as a conscientious citizen I registered to be part of the 'early warning system' (which didn't happen by the way) - send me a text to say 'Stay off the beach' or 'Grab your emergency kit, it's incoming' or even a reassuring 'All's well'. Simple really - and achievable at a fraction of the cost of the advertising currently recommended.
When infrastructure is wiped out as a result of a disaster - natural or otherwise - then we would have to work with whatever is left - sounding a drum, banging the rocks or tapping out Morse code. But for advanced warning - while we are all still switched on, plugged in and open to send and receive facts - using digital engagement to communicate could save thousands of lives. Simply hoping someone might pass by an old-school web site and pick up infrequent updates will leave us all sinking in a sea of inertia.
Posted at 02:06 PM in Action required, Comment, Communication, crisis communications, Current Affairs, Debate, digital life, environment, New Zealand, public relations, Society, Warnings, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
A New Year invitation to become a citizen of what is claimed to be the world's first virtual country - not a virtual world - is out there for all to accept. Wirtland (pronounced Virtland I believe) was established in August 2008 and Cristopher Luengo, the country's external relations manager is currently busy with a ning site, connecting on Linkedin and other social networking platforms. It will be interesting to see what relationships he forges, whether public relations will be at the heart of Wirtland's 'international diplomacy' and what GDP tally results over time.
It is a novel concept and Wirtland's latest information suggests Bulgaria is discussing official recognition of this new country without borders. The thought occurs to me that if everyone starts setting up their own virtual countries will we simply transport the problems of the fabric, real world, into the web states that are brought into being? Or would it be possible to create something new and more workable than the states we have now? It looks unlikely - after all one of the first activities of the Wirtland community seems to be running a 'Miss Wirtland' contest. Not necessarily something I feel might change either the virtual or real worlds. I can think of other things I would want to do first - especially as they seem to be quite earnest in their endeavours. If they put up an entry for the Eurovision Song Contest then I'll know it's a gag. That said, is online dominion the logical next stage for Web 2.0? Or would any 'new country' simply descend into the kind of digibabble that we find on Twitter and similar tools?
Anyone who is not happy with their own country can become a Witizen and will get a passport and other documents to prove they belong. The creators stress it is not a virtual world, in the same sense as Second Life, but a sovereign country that simply has no borders. So if you fancy emigrating online, now's your chance, before the virtual 'land rush' begins.
Really though, do they honestly believe that people are going to keep forking out for expensive software that lets them down at critical moments? And, given how insecure Internet Explorer has proved to be over the years, do they truly believe that people will head lemming-like to jump onto their data storage network? I don't think so. Too little, too late boys. If I were you I'd be trying like mad to think of some other way to build a trustworthy reputation - specially post-Vista. Azure is a great name and a lovely colour, but Microsoft is going to need translate blue sky thinking into the useful realities of future business models if it wants to keep its mits on the high volume business it has got used to over the years.
The phrases 'money going down the drain' and 'clutching at straws' spring to mind every time I think about it.
There were plenty of warnings out there over the last twelve to fifteen months that trust in the global financial markets had weakened and was at breaking point. My ears pricked up permanently and I went to action stations when the UK's Northern Rock foundered and I have no doubt that history will probably mark that as one of the most contagious moments in this viral panic.
Of more concern to me currently is the ever increasing prospect of a 'food meltdown'. Again, the warning signs are there and have been for some time. There has been a small blip of hope as the financial panic pushes the price of commodities down - particularly oil, which impacts on the transport of food and its subsequent cost around the world. The UN has been warning the world for some time, but so absorbed has the media become in conveying the sense of panic over the cash, the issue of food has, somewhat stupidly, taken a back seat.
I say stupidly because we can't eat the notes and the money is still all there - just redistributed in someone else's pocket. The system is foundering because people and institutions now have limited or little trust in each other - or the system itself. This can be corrected and corrected quickly through repaired relationships, a fresh look at the system so that it is 'reengineered' in a format that allows people to work within it with renewed confidence. A system that doesn't permit directors of failed companies to walk off with several million dollars in their trousers, instead one which provides fair return for those who save, invest, borrow, build and repay. Those of us who, despite the hullabaloo, are still going to work, still paying for our mortgages, our credit cards, business liabilities and investments and who haven't yet opted to stash our life savings under the mattress.
What we can't 'turn around' with any great speed is the problem of food. Take a look at some of the reports, listen to what is being said. Get out in the garden and plant some potatoes. Surely to goodness some real attention needs to be paid to this issue and appropriate action taken? Yes, they need to fix the money and this can be done quite quickly if the culture of fear, mistrust, panic and self-protectionism is overcome. But the food? This will take longer, create lasting scars in many countries, result in the deaths of thousands and be the source of far greater global upheaval in the long term.
If there was a job for social media at this point in time, it would be in acting as a viral movement that brings the issue of food shortages - and a call to action - to many millions online who are subjected to mainstream media saturation coverage of the financial markets, the US election and very little else. Unless of course you count the monkey waiters in Japan. All rather reminiscent of Nero playing his lyre while Rome was consumed by the flames...
So often, I have to give a history lesson during training sessions, outlining how we got to Web 2.0, what it is all about and why it is different from Web 1.0 (although there never used to be such a thing as Web 1.0, but there you go). I knocked out this three minute story last year as part of a keynote speech/presentation I was asked to do and it has been coming in handy ever since - so here you go, hope it is what you were looking for!