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April 13 2011


Social Media's Role as a Crucial Lifeline During Japan Disaster

This is the story of seven people connected by the Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake that rocked northern Japan in March and their need to obtain immediate and accurate information. Mass confusion combined with their desire to reach loved ones compelled them to turn to social media as a lifeline.

Through networked, digital technologies, they created new ways to supplement lifelines for those at the heart of the disaster. Some of the members took action from within the quake’s impact zone while others reached out from continents away. All were connected by the social network.

  • Iain Campbell | The Twitter Project
  • Masashige Motoe | On the Ground and Linked in
  • Brian Starkey | The Smartphone Connection
  • Chris Hudler | The Wiki-Writer
  • Brett Bull | Twitter Emergency Response
  • Eric Butler | The Facebook Search Party

  • IAIN CAMPBELL | The Twitter Project

    Earthquakes are nothing new to Iain Campbell.

    He has experienced dozens during the ten years of living in Sendai city. But he was not prepared for this one.

    Campbell was in the library at work when the 9.0 quake came to life just over 100 kilometers from where he stood.

    The 35-year-old education advisor dove under a table, clutching both his iPad and cell phone.

    As walls cracked and dust began to fill the room, he thought to himself that at least he will have a way to call for help if he needs to.

    Then his mind turned to his wife and his 2-year-old son who was at day care.

    LISTEN: “I realized that most of the children were in bare feet and pajamas so I had to go back into the building with the shaking and the aftershocks still going.”

    The earthquake and tsunami blew out power lines. It cut gas and severed water pipes. But data connections that provide Internet to mobile devices held up.

    Campbell and his family took refuge in his car and he began the search for the 70 Japan Exchange Programme (JET) teachers he helps manage.

    It soon became clear through emailing cell phones and computers that one teacher in particular was missing.

    It was here that the Twitter Project came alive.

    Campbell and another coworker drew a series of rectangular grids (PDF) over a screen shot of a Google Map image of the affected coastline in Miyagi Prefecture.

    They numbered each box on the grid from 1 to 83 and posted the image on the Foreigners From Miyagi Facebook group and asked for volunteers to choose a box and write hashtags (#) of prominent locations contained within.

    Then anyone on Twitter could use each hashtag, such as “#onagawahighschool,” as a searchable term to report on people found, relief supplies and updates concerned with that location.

    In effect, Campbell, along with two others, Greg Lekich and Joshua Mcveigh-Schultz, created a massive and centralized search engine with one goal in mind: to help those in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

    LISTEN: "We've got to basically make hundreds of locations into searchable terms? How am I going to do that…? And then I start thinking, thinking… Facebook!"

    MASASHIGE MOTOE | On the Ground and Linked in

    Masashige Motoe was sitting down to eat when Sendai station began to rock back and forth.

    One, two, three waves of tremors shook the station before the earthquake started to show signs of stopping.

    The restaurant owner put his hands against the wall as if to prevent it from falling and told everyone to remain calm. Everyone did.

    Some people even tried to pay for their meal before leaving.

    Station staff evacuated the 45-year-old university professor and hundreds of others outside to a parking lot between the main bus and taxi loops.

    Massive pedestrian decks loomed nervously above as aftershocks continued to rumble.

    Motoe reached for his cell phone to find he had no service.

    LISTEN: “It was the first experience for me [in] 45 years in Japan. It was the first time I [was] really afraid.”

    Notes regarding audio:

    • “Shinkansen” is Japanese for Bullet Train.

    Motoe calls himself an "early adopter" of Twitter.

    He began using the social networking site as soon as it came out -- back in the day when there was so few users one could see a single timeline of tweets.

    When Motoe found himself evacuated out of Sendai station along with hundreds of others, it was Twitter that he turned to in order to get immediate local information and cut through "sensational mass media."

    The professor said the experience of using Twitter during this disaster helped him understand the "true character of realtime" and cultivate the courage to remain in Sendai and begin the rebuilding process.

    Notes regarding audio:

    • “Striken Area” = Stricken Area
    • “Cool information” = calm, objective information.

    LISTEN: “It’s quite difficult to imagine the experience without Twitter… if we communicate [with] only local person and [through] sensational mass media, I can’t keep my heart and mind calm.”

    BRIAN STARKEY | The Smartphone Connection

    Brian Starkey was on his way from Sendai to Tokyo by bullet train. It had just arrived at Fukushima station.

    The doors opened and some passengers got off and others got on. The doors closed again.

    The 36-year-old waited but the train did not move.

    The slight lurch passengers feel when a train moves forward did not come. Instead, the passenger car began to shake then rock back and forth.

    Brian and the other passengers could do nothing but look on as the city shook and rumbled.

    The train's doors remained closed.

    LISTEN: “I don’t know what happened but I think a hose had busted and water just started spewing out everywhere. There were clouds of dust coming up. You know people were just like this can’t be real.”

    The earthquake and tsunami severed telephone lines, destroyed roads and halted transportation.

    Officials evacuated Starkey to Fukushima city hall. He had his cell phone charger with him and managed to find a spot near an outlet in the wall among the dozens of people already in the building.

    Starkey, and his smartphone's data connection, soon became a hub for himself and others in the make-shift shelter to get a hold of people and obtain valuable information.

    Starkey’s digital connection to his family kept him calm and help him make vital decisions throughout the unfolding calamity.

    He decided to stay longer in Fukushima and away from his family in Sendai, an area that bore the brunt of the tsunami and was low on resources.

    The information he garnered also lead to "the hardest decision in [his] life:" to leave his wife's family and evacuate his own out of Sendai.

    LISTEN: “These Facebook groups that were being made — they were able to glean the information into manageable sizes for me… I was able to make clear decisions because of that.”

    CHRIS HUDLER | The Wiki-writer

    Chris Hudler and his girlfriend were at home in Washington, getting ready for work.

    She yelled at him from the washroom to turn on the TV.

    The 32-year-old flicked on the television to see images of his “favourite spot” in all of Japan being “washed away.”

    Hudler lived in the north-eastern coastal city of Natori when he was 22.

    His house was minutes from where the tsunami pounded its way over breakwaters and through city streets.

    The onslaught of water wiped the city of 74,000 people off the map.

    LISTEN: “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I used to bike out there weekly. It was my home.”

    Hudler went straight to the Internet and then Facebook.

    A quick search lead him to a newly created Facebook group called Foreigners from Miyagi. He joined and within two days saw the group morph into something inspirational.

    700 members from around the world joined the online meeting place and turned it into an unofficial search party and a place to filter and exchange information. But non-stop posting became overwhelming.

    Someone floated the idea to develop an online Wikipedia page that could be constantly updated and tweaked with new and vital information.

    People needed “a bank” of information that anyone with the Internet could access and that was updated as information came in.

    Hudler took the project on.

    LISTEN: “There were maps for places to go to get food or fuel or water. There were maps of what roads were available, what roads not to go to… this stuff is important.”

    BRETT BULL | Twitter Emergency Response

    The first rumblings of the earthquake forced Brett Bull to stop working.

    Desks, tables and walls shook. Books, printers and folders fell.

    Bull, along with everyone in the Tokyo office, sought cover.

    As the earthquake intensified, the 42-year-old freelance journalist realized this was no ordinary earthquake.

    Only after “what seemed like forever” did the tremors stop.

    Bull and his fellow coworkers immediately gathered around the TV. They flipped to the local NHK news broadcast and watched the screen as the severity of the disaster in the north slowly made itself clear.

    LISTEN: “I eventually dove under my desk, my colleagues were under their desks. The quake went on for what seemed like forever.”

    Bull is also an avid “twitterer.”

    He has used the social media service for over two years and has accumulated over 15,000 followers.

    Bull immediately started tweeting in English what he was seeing on the local news broadcast.

    His tweets reached a bus load of people and helped them navigate their way through the destroyed network of roads in the north.

    LISTEN: “The international media had picked up on the story of course but not in a way that was substantial so people were sort of relying on me to feed them decent news.”

    ERIC BUTLER | The Facebook Search Party

    Eric Butler was in bed at home in Calgary, AB when his mother called.

    Half awake, he picked up.

    She told him that a massive earthquake had just rocked Japan and that a tsunami was decimating coastal cities, including Natori, where he lived and worked as a teacher for two years.

    He did not know if the disaster had reached the dozens of students and educators he had spent so much time with while he was there.

    LISTEN: “My mind is really fuzzy in the initial point just because of the shock.”


    After a flurry of e-mails, Butler created the Foreigners from Miyagi Facebook group.

    Within hours, Butler saw his digital meeting space turn into “a completely different entity.”

    The group ballooned to over 300 members by nightfall, then to over 700 hundred in two days.

    Members begun to help spread information and translate local news. People fact-checked rumors and sensationalized media.

    Above all else, perhaps, the group managed to put hundreds of people in touch with loved ones.

    It soon became apparent that one particular Japanese Exchange Programme (JET) teacher named Taylor Anderson was missing. She was last seen in an area engulfed by the tsunami.

    The 700-plus members galvanized around the whereabouts of Anderson and transformed the group into a digital search party in an effort to locate her.

    Butler helped lead the way.

    Sadly, after the interview was conducted, the news emerged that Anderson was found dead near one of the schools where she taught.

    LISTEN: “It’s just kind of incredible the amount of information we’ve gathered about one missing person with nothing but our computers, an Internet connection and a couple volunteers in the area.”

    This story originally ran in The Thunderbird, an online publication of the University of British Columbia's journalism program.

    Jamie Williams is an urban culture freelance journalist, blogger and University of British Columbia Master of Journalism student. His work has appeared in Hobo Magazine, Spinearth.tv, The Vancouver Sun, Metropolis Magazine and Discorder. He created and maintains a bilingual website about grassroots Japanese music and culture, The Spin Japan Project and blogs for Sendai City Industrial Promotion Division. He lived in Japan for eight years, where he was sponsored by Spin Magazine and traveled the length of the country to cover the nation's music scene.

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    January 11 2011


    How Mapping, SMS Platforms Saved Lives in Haiti Earthquake

    This article was co-authored by Mayur Patel

    Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti last January, killing more than 230,000 people and leaving several million inhabitants of the small island nation homeless. Though natural disasters are common, the humanitarian response this time was different: New media and communications technologies were used in unprecedented ways to aid the recovery effort.

    A report released today by Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities, with support from Internews and funding from the Knight Foundation, takes a critical look at the role of communications in the crisis and recommends ways to improve the effectiveness of utilizing media in future disaster relief efforts. (The Knight Foundation is a major funder for MediaShift and its sister site MediaShift Idea Lab.)

    In the weeks after the crisis, Haiti quickly became a real world laboratory for several new applications, such as interactive maps and SMS texting platforms. In the aftermath of the quake, these tools were used for the first time on a large scale to create dialogue between citizens and relief workers, to help guide search-and-rescue teams and find people in need of critical supplies. The report, Lessons from Haiti [PDF download] (co-authored by Anne Nelson and Ivan Sigal, with assistance from Dean Zambrano), recounts the stories of media participants, technologists, humanitarian organizations, Haitian journalists and response teams involved in the relief. Many of these players were first brought together to share their experiences at a roundtable convened by the Knight Foundation and Internews last May.

    Notable Innovations

    "The most notable innovations to emerge from Haiti were: the translation of crowdsourced data to actionable information; the use of SMS message broadcasting in a crisis; and crowdsourcing of open maps for humanitarian application," according to the report. A dizzying array of new media and information technology groups, Haitian diaspora networks and media development partners were involved in these initiatives (see the infographic below). Although these innovations had varying levels of impact in Haiti, they showcased the potential for use in future crises.


    One of the most notable developments was the application of Ushahidi, an online crisis mapping platform that was born only a few years earlier in Kenya. Ushahidi had already been used to map political violence, but it had not yet been used in the context of large-scale natural disasters. When the earthquake struck, an ad hoc coalition quickly took shape, anchored by a group of graduate students at Tufts University in Boston.

    The Ushahidi teams, supported by translators from the Haitian diaspora community in the U.S., gathered information from news reports and individuals about the most acute needs on the ground: rescue, food and water, and security, among others. The coordinates were placed on a map and made available to rescue and relief teams.

    Soon they were able to include SMS texts in their bank of information. A few days after the quake, Digicel, one of Haiti's leading telecom companies, agreed to offer a free short code (4636) for SMS texts in service of the relief efforts, with the help of InSTEDD, a technology focused humanitarian organization. The four-digit code enabled cell phone users to send free messages to central information centers about missing persons and emergency needs. SMS messages and direct reports from Haitian citizens began to flow within four days of the quake.

    OpenStreetMaps, an open community of volunteer mappers, joined the effort to create online maps of Haiti's improvised and unnamed neighborhoods. These maps became the standard reference points: Users included not just information technology platforms such as Ushahidi, but also large providers of humanitarian services, such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).

    Not Necessarily a Success Story

    However, the CDAC Report cautions against calling the Haitian experience a "new media success story," as some of the approaches -- attempted for the first time -- faltered. The crisis threw together volunteer technology communities and professional humanitarian organizations, without a common language and operating procedures. A lack of coordination and understanding of how to use and integrate the new tools into existing disaster relief structures further complicated efforts on the ground.

    In addition, new media efforts did not preclude the importance of traditional media. As in past crises in the developing world, radio continued to be the most effective tool for serving the information needs of the local population. With Haiti's newspapers and television broadcasters knocked out of production for the first few weeks after the quake, radio provided a heroic lifeline. One Haitian station, SignalFM, was able to broadcast continuously throughout the crisis, and worked closely with both international relief organizations and the digital innovators in support of the population. Popular radio host Cedre Paul reached his audience via Twitter as well as on the air.

    "We have always known that one of the best ways to communicate with affected population in crises is through radio broadcasts," said Mark Frohardt, vice president of humanitarian programs for Internews, a media development organization. "We found in Haiti that innovative technologies not only had an impact on information delivery on their own, but also greatly enhanced the reach and effectiveness of radio."

    Still Work to be Done

    For all the welcome innovation, the report makes it clear that digital humanitarian action has a long ways to go. One of the big obstacles to the Haiti effort was the lack of pre-existing connections between the large government and international institutions and the new tech activists. Large institutions tend to mean weighty protocol, some of it based on long and bitter experience. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for example, has strict rules of confidentiality, which has allowed it to play a uniquely useful role in conflicted and tense situations, while the open source community's hallmarks are spontaneity and transparency.

    Nonetheless, the connections among the various sectors advanced in Haiti, stimulated by a common desire to help, and there are many signs that new synapses are emerging. For example, CDAC has made some progress bridging the gaps between the humanitarian and media communities. The report calls for more of this kind of cross-sector collaboration to improve future recovery efforts. Specifically, it recommends that media, new technology developers and humanitarian agencies (both UN and international NGOs) engage in joint preparation and simulation exercises for future emergency responses.

    We should not forget that Haiti's crisis is far from over. Many donors have yet to fulfill their commitments for reconstruction funds, and much of the rubble remains. New digital initiatives are still appearing; one promising new effort from MIT is an online labor exchange for Haitians called Konbit.

    Disasters will continue to occur. But their damage can be mitigated by relief efforts that are well-planned and executed in concert with the local population. Digital media technologies offer a unique opportunity to advance these goals with the right on-the-ground coordination. As the report notes: Haiti demonstrated "the culmination of a vision and the beginning of the hard work of implementation."

    Anne Nelson is an educator, consultant and author in the field of international media strategy. She created and teaches New Media and Development Communications at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and teaches an international teleconference course at Bard College. She is a senior consultant on media, education and philanthropy for Anthony Knerr & Associates. She is on Twitter as @anelsona, was a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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    July 16 2010




    Philip Elmer-DeWitt asks in his blog the first question.

    Yes es my answer, but a magic performance of Steve Jobs (better than ever, a study case on how to conduct a press conference after two weeks of terrible crisis miss-management) will not end the real problem.

    The free cases either.

    What the Apple fans want is a perfect iPhone.

    A better one.

    This what they were told, this is what they are asking for.

    So, again, this is another example of how risky is to fuel high expectations… and paying the consequences of under delivering.

    In summary:

    A humble Steve Jobs.

    Really upset by the “media over reaction”

    That ended confronting and challenging two big news organizations: Bloomberg (BusinessWeek) and The New York Times.

    They will respond.

    And Apple will have, bad for them, better for us, a more rough watchdog coverage.

    When you become too big, to powerful, you could end as an arrogant organization.

    A lesson for Apple.

    Good news for all of us.


    Nieman Journalism Lab: How Ushahidi can be use by media organisations

    Patrick Meier, Ushahidi’s director of crisis mapping and strategic partnerships, talks to Nieman Journalism about how the crowdsourced mapping technology can be used by media organisations in the video below.

    There’s a full transcript of Meier’s comments on the Nieman site too. Ushahidi has previously been used as a crisis management tool with its initial launch used to track and monitor acts of violence and the humanitarian situation during post-election violence in Kenya.

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    July 13 2010


    What Working for Wikipedia Taught Me About Collaboration

    A little over three years ago, I started working as the communications manager for Wikipedia. I had just moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., and was ecstatic to hear that this quirky website, which had begun to pop up in many of my web searches, was based there. Having grown up in New York, my culture radar detected that this was a one-of-a-kind project that attracted eccentric individuals. Needless to say, my radar never fails me.

    At that time, Wikipedia's internal structure did not match the widespread success and attention it was beginning to enjoy. I found myself working in a thrifty "rent-by-the-month" office building with three other employees: An administrative assistant, a fundraiser/hardcore Wikipedian, and a CFO. I was told that most tasks, including the communication projects, were carried out by a large network of international volunteers.

    I immediately began to review the public relations materials available to me, and almost immediately went into panic mode. There was no polished press kit, press list or, dare I say, communication strategy. In fact, the majority of individuals on the communications committee had little to no public relations training, and were more intellectual and techie than the average PR practitioner at that time.

    Crisis Mode

    A few weeks into the job, with little training and a very primitive understanding of the wiki ethos, I encountered my first PR crisis. A hardcore and well known Wikipedian, Essjay, had lied to the New Yorker about his credentials. Not surprisingly, the years of crisis communication training I received was useless in the context I found myself in. For a brief moment, I honestly thought that my career as a PR specialist had come to an end. The New Yorker, in my mind, was the bible of the media world; there was no way that our online encyclopedia was going to survive the PR damage.

    In the midst of my concerns, I soon became a believer in the power of collaboration. That crisis was the moment when the new media landscape unfolded before my eyes.


    The volunteers took charge. They created a Wikipedia entry that documented the event in gruesome detail. It was honest, direct and, amazingly, had no PR spin. In fact, for most Wikipedia members, the biggest concern was that Essjay had used his false credentials in content disputes. It was apparent to me that there was never any malice or hidden agenda. Essjay himself had revealed his real credentials on his user profile when he was hired by Wikia, a company owned by Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales. In fact, in the months that followed, I found the community became self-correcting by encouraging the use of real names and identities. It found a way to help prevent this type of issue from happening again.

    At the time, some critics argued that the incident ruined Wikipedia's reputation. Of course, this was the farthest thing from the truth. Since then, the site has grown both in content and in language versions. (My husband is a philosophy professor, which means I regularly meet academics who are quick to point out how "surprisingly accurate" the site is, and how fascinated they are with how it has impacted how our society views information.)

    Learning From Collaboration

    As someone who identifies herself as a bicultural New Yorker who specialized in cross-cultural communication in college, I was not a stranger to collaboration. In fact, that was my biggest criticism of American culture -- we were too individualistic and not group focused enough. But nothing prepared me for the wiki world. I learned some valuable lessons about collaboration and how to make it work. Below are some of the key learnings.

    • Trust the Crowd; Its Smarter than You -- The sooner you trust the group and empower it, the sooner it can produce high quality results. The group can make up for any weaknesses you may have as an individual. The idea is to bring out the strongest skills and downplay the weakest in each person.
    • Diversity and Creativity Are Intrinsically Connected -- Creative brainstorming is significantly improved by diversity. Individuals not only challenge each others' ideas, but they also inspire each other as well.
    • Collaboration is Messy -- When Jimmy Wales said "[Wikipedia is] like a sausage: you might like the taste of it, but you don't necessarily want to see how it's made," he wasn't kidding. Chaos, in many ways, seems to be the spark of great collaborative endeavors.
    • Be Open to Receiving and Giving Criticism -- When working collaboratively, it is important to let go of your ego. Learn to not take things personally and be honest about what you think without being disrespectful.

    Wikipedia still receives a lot of flack -- it's an easy target for institutions and individuals who are desperately trying to survive in a digital world. However, I feel grateful for having worked for a short time with the "free culture" trailblazers behind the project who are responsible for making the world a bit more open, democratic, smarter, and much more collaborative.

    Sandra Ordonez calls herself a web astronaut who has been helping organizations navigate the internet since 1997. Currently, she helps run OurBlook.com, a collaborative online forum that gathers interviews from today's top leaders in the hopes of finding tomorrow's solutions. Since December 2008, the site has been conducting a Future of Journalism interview series. Sandra also heads up the Facebook page, "Bicultural and Multicultural People Rule." Previously, she was the Communications Manager for Wikipedia. She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.

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    July 12 2010


    5 Digital PR Lessons from BP's Oil Spill Response

    Just like late night talk show hosts who salivate over a fresh political sex scandal, professional communicators can't stop analyzing and talking about BP's public relations work during the current Gulf Coast oil spill disaster. More to the point, they can't shut up about BP's inability to relate to the public, and its poor use of digital and social tools available.

    It seems a communications or social media conference now isn't complete without obligatory mentions of the "BP PR Disaster," complete with sly references to verbal gaffes by BP CEO Tony Hayward. The still-unfolding environmental disaster has already been fodder for reams of blog posts, articles and dissections.

    Everything BP has done over the past two months has been picked apart and critiqued. From the retaining of outside PR firms, to the company's (lack of) use of social channels and the hiring of a Bush-Cheney-era communicator, BP has done little to impress the critics.

    The move to hire Anne Womack-Kolton, a former aide to Dick Cheney, caused an Economist blogger to nearly blow a gasket:

    The first law of disaster-management in the United States is that you appoint somebody from the "in" party rather than the "out" party. The second law is that you avoid anybody with connections to George Bush and Dick Cheney.

    BPFakeTwitter.jpgTo top it off, some of the most effective critiques of the company and its clean-up are coming in 140 character bursts from the unknown acerbic voice behind the satirical Twitter account, @BPGlobalPR. The caustic and laugh-out-loud funny nature of the tweets sets off a chain of retweets, creating online waves that reach much farther and faster than the spread of the oil (or BP's message for that matter).

    The general consensus in the public relations industry is that BP ran its crisis communications in the same ham-fisted manner they've run the clean-up operation in the Gulf. But are pundits being too hard on BP? And what can we learn about conducting PR in the digital age from this example? Below are my five suggested lessons, and a list of links to 15 must-read articles about BP's response to the crisis.

    Five Big Lessons

    It's become all too easy to knock around the communicators at BP. The harsh reality is most major corporations and organizations would have reacted in the same textbook manner. This spill has changed the way communicators will plan for and execute strategies around crises of all kinds. New questions are being asked and long-held assumptions are being challenged. Here are the top five communications trends I see coming from the BP Gulf spill:

    1. Consider the ethics of social channels. BP makes a regular habit of turning off the comment function on social media channels and not allowing other views to be shared on its profiles. This is presumably to help control the message and avoid issues of liability -- but how should Facebook or YouTube react to this? Twitter said it wouldn't touch the satirical account mocking the oil company, but in early June it asked the author to make it clear they were not connected to BP. Are social networks simply platforms anyone can use to distribute a message, even if that message isn't 100 percent accurate or there is no room for response or debate?
    2. One vs. many spokespeople. How would a Zappos, IBM, Starbucks or Dell (to use a few oft-cited examples of more open and connected corporate cultures) handle a BP-like situation with their brands? Classic communications strategy suggests to follow BP's lead and anoint a single spokesperson. But these go-to models of crisis control are challenged when hundreds speak for a brand, even if informally. The Internet is an organizational tool. If an organization facing a crisis is socially connected and understands the networks they have created, they'll know what to do. The clearest way forward is to ask your online team members to follow some basic guidelines about when and how to respond in the specific situation at hand. The three main tasks for the formal and informal social media teams are: Thank people, correct facts, and share updated information. Remember to keep responses short, accurate and polite, and to link to a place where aggregated information about the crisis can be found. Remind your online team not to apologize for the incident, never to debate or engage in defense or explanations.
    3. Tactics are not directly transferable across mediums. A common refrain from many analysts is that BP ripped pages from an old playbook to use on the new field of communications. Good communicators understand that communications strategy must be tool-agnostic, but that tactics are tool-specific. In other words, BP used classic communications methods in new mediums. This dissonance was immediately seized upon by organizations like Greenpeace and the satirical BP account on Twitter.
    4. The old paradigm of broadcasting to persuade is being challenged. BP's communicators took to YouTube and created what seemed like television ads. They would have been better served by attempting to stimulate a conversation, providing a realistic portrait of the work being done, or engaging in a live, viewer-centric Q&A session. Overall, the BP website and spokespeople lacked a human or colloquial tone.
    5. Sometimes you just can't win. BP has failed to realize that sometimes trying to "win" PR battles actually results in an organization losing the overall communications war. Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" suggested in his Vancouver Sun/Montreal Gazette column that perhaps BP never really had a chance. "If the basis of social media is based on trust and credibility, how can BP be expected to engage and truly connect?" he wrote. "For now, it's hopeless. But that was probably also true long before a drop of oil ever touched the Gulf of Mexico."

    15 Great Articles About BP's Response

    In the course of reading over 100 articles about BP's PR response, I came across several pieces that offered valuable insight and information. Here are the 15 best:

    1. Why social media won't help BP: Vancouver Sun
    2. BPs woes start a the top: Globe and Mail
    3. Failures made worse by PR mistakes: MSNBC
    4. BP PR blunder carries high political cost: Reuters
    5. BP and the long tail PR crisis: SMI
    6. BP is attempting to cram the square peg of the traditional mass media into the round hole of social media: Derek Devries
    7. BP can't tweet: Merriam
    8. Adweek reports on BP's major social media push -- with disabled comments: Truthout
    9. Do social media complaints make a difference to a brand?: ComMetrics
    10. BP should fix the problem, not "join the conversation": OpposablePlanets
    11. What BP should be doing with social media: Socialnomics
    12. Review of BPs social media campaign: Bruce Clay
    13. BP's Gulf PR disaster - give them a break!: PR Disasters
    14. Social media won't help big, bad BP: Canwest
    15. BP Social Media Response to the Spill: Social Technology Strategy slide show

    Ian Capstick is a progressive media consultant. He worked for a decade in Canadian politics supporting some of Canada's most charismatic leaders. He is passionate about creating social change through communications. Ian appears weekly on CBC TV's Power & Politics, weekly radio panels, and is regularly quoted online and off about the evolution of public relations in a connected world. He describes his small communications firm, MediaStyle.ca, as a blog with a consulting arm.

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    May 04 2010




    The Spanish socialist leader is not just a political dead body and a financial ignorant but also an amateur on communication matters.

    Unable to fix the problems of Spain, he better hires a first class “crisis management” expert because the markets can end his political carrier.

    And Spain will pay a high price for such an incompetent “charlatan”.

    Another “toasted” politician.

    Like the Greek prime minister.

    Like Gordon Brown tomorrow.

    Like Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

    What a trio!

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