After reading Chris Abraham's article, "Let Your Customers in On Your Secret Sauce", I was struck by its application for emergency managers. The article is focused on the need for businesses and organizations to be transparent because -- as Abraham says -- "all things being equal, people will buy your stuff if they buy into you". Customers want to know as much as possible not just about the product, but the people, values, and vision that back it up.
This is no different in emergency management. The last several months have focused on major disasters like Superstorm Sandy and the continuing struggle to get communities to engage and accept personal and family preparedness messages. While there are many reasons for this struggle, one of them is the general lack of transparency presented by emergency management organizations. When a disaster management organization is closed off, citizens and ultimately consumers are only sold on the "product", which by all accounts is often presented and available only during the worst of times. Moreover, disaster response is already extremely stressful for survivors and responders and only lends itself to very formalized response structures where government is in control. This kind of "sauce" only makes disaster response different and separated from its community.
While no one thinks we can stop disasters from striking out community, there is a strong possibility that showing "behind the curtain" before disasters happens will improve the acceptance and recognition of the role of emergency management and preparedness before, during, and after events. For example, emergency management organizations that post pictures of their staff or share successes and failures (often via social media channels) are far more successful at keeping a human connection with their community. When this happens, citizens and other constituents like traditional media and elected officials are far more patient with emergency management organizations as they try to leverage the limited resources available to them to reduce risk and prepare to respond and recovery from disasters.
Show the community what makes your organization tick or makes you special. Not a different kind of special, but a unique and valuable component of the entire community.
Much thanks to @cyberlandgal for sharing the original article by @chrisabraham.