In times of crisis, agencies need to speak on social media

Social media is allowing government to manage crisis responses like never before. Emergency agencies need to figure out how best to use Twitter and Facebook effectively.

Social media is increasingly important for agencies to disseminate information and monitor feedback during a crisis. As citizens’ expectations grow, government will need to make sure it is using social media to manage crises effectively.

“The main risk,” Country Fire Authority digital media manager Martin Anderson told The Mandarin, “is thinking you can get away with not being involved in it. At the very least government should be monitoring what’s happening on social media and be aware of what people are saying and how they can improve their service. Preferably they will be able to respond, too.”

Victoria’s emergency services are seen by many as a leader in this area, having been pushed into reforming digital engagement protocols by the devastating 2009 Black Saturday fires. In 2011 the state’s emergency services integrated social media and website emergency warning feeds, meaning website updates are automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter.

They have also introduced systematic monitoring of incoming information, giving a clearer picture of how information is being interpreted, and allowing for real-time changes in messaging — as well as providing a greater number of citizen inputs on fast-changing situations on the ground, such as bushfires.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.