FEMA Crisis Management Case Study with John Shea


Public Information Officer John Shea discusses strategically leveraging social media for crisis management, the credibility gap between what consumers say on social media and what you say on your website, and why press releases are ineffective crisis management tools.  

FEMA Public Information Officer John Shea discusses how the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses social media for crisis management.

FEMA uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Widgets, and RSS to amplify potentially lifesaving information on a local and incident basis that may be available at FEMA.gov

FEMA Crisis Management Insights

1:39 – How online newsrooms help public relations firms use the web as a primary stakeholder relations channel.

2:47 – Why FEMA sees social media as an effective crisis management channel.  

3:41 – How FEMA is leveraging social media regionally and geographically by working with state and local partners during emergencies like earthquakes, fires, and tornados to provide disaster relief and promote disaster preparedness.   

6:01 – FEMA’s Regional Twitter (Example: Region 9), social media account management policy, who decides what information moves via Twitter on a region-by-region basis and coordinating the national and regional message.  

10:12 – How FEMA uses an automated, decentralized social media for crisis management to empower experts, state and local officials with preconfigured social media footprint, standard operating procedures, and training and support to integrate social media into existing job processes and minimize staffing requirements.  

11:12 – How FEMA external affairs – which includes public affairs firms, congressional affairs, intergovernmental affairs, and community relations  – use tool-based standard operating procedures as guidelines for experts, state and local officials who may be using FEMA’s social media websites during a disaster or to promote crisis readiness.  FEMA has standard operating procedures for using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  

14:17 – How FEMA is leveraging off-network solutions (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) to extend the reach of its on-networks resources (information available through FEMA.gov) and navigate IT security, privacy, and legal issues.  

15:06 – Why creating and hosting content on-network is critical to maintaining the credibility of FEMA’s off-network social media communications efforts.  

15:33 – How FEMA sequences the release of information during a crisis incident on-network and off-network.  

17:22 – How and why social media has marginalized the effectiveness of press releases.  The benefit of amplifying on-network information via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites to reach individuals with potentially life-saving information.  

18:05 – Making social media status updates more credible by back-ending them with links to on-network information so recipients can verify information by means of the authority of the FEMA.gov domain.  

19:08 – Instead of only pushing out safety alerts, FEMA uses social networking sites to search for and connect people looking for disaster relief, safety, and security information with links to potentially lifesaving information at FEMA.gov.  The sequencing of on-network versus off-network information distribution and the value of presenting content at your domain versus a third-party social media site.  

20:53 – Managing information security concerns when communicating about potentially vulnerable communities during times of crisis.  

22:56 – The tools FEMA uses to crowdsource the kind of crisis communications people need most during emergencies and natural disasters and the benefits of using web-based tools or software as a service at organizations with stringent network security demands.  

24:16 – What skill sets and staffing levels are required to manage media monitoring during a crisis, and how is FEMA using social media to listen proactively to identify and distribute the information people need most?  

26:24 – Why compatibility is critical to the effectiveness of America’s disaster response systems and why interoperability and compliance are critical to FEMA’s social media communications strategy.  

28:16 – What FEMA is doing to make disaster relief information available via mobile devices, and the notion of FEMA evolving into the public steward of raw disaster relief data, which could be repurposed and visualized by the public with open source tools like Google Maps.  

30:42 – The network infrastructure required to respond to significant spikes in traffic, which customarily arise during times of crisis, and the content delivery network FEMA uses to help respond to increased page requests.  

33:05 – The legal guidelines mandate what types of features government agencies can and can’t use when setting up and customizing social media accounts.  

35:11 – How FEMA uses internal communications to replace command and control style communications with a more scalable model that lets the center of the organization inform the edges, and the edges inform the world.  

37:02 – End  

Photo by John Middelkoop on Unsplash

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