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.
Leave a comment
This week Businessweek ran an interview with (relatively) new Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss his vision of leadership. Although radically different than his predecessor Steve Jobs, Cook seems to have a clear and distinct vision of what it takes to run a successful organization. Upon review, I think Cooks principles are clear, concise, and very applicable to emergency managers -- particularly those struggling with how to embrace social media and emergency technologies. Cook's takeaways are as follows:
1. Diversity of Leadership -- Cook stresses that diversity is not just a buzzword for HR or a political correct organization, but rather can significant improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization. While most emergency managers are not looking at profit driven results like Cook, I think there is a strong possibility that involving a diverse mix of people in the emergency management planning and preparedness process will improve ideas, increase engagement, and ultimately improve preparedness.
2. Transparency is Key -- This is a point that is becoming increasingly important to government organizations and is absolutely critical when emergency management organizations engage their constituents in a social media environment. Nothing can be hidden so why not embrace being open and improve engagement and belief that your organization is doing everything possible to be prepared.
3. Listen to Customer Feedback -- Cook stresses reading customer emails if for no other reason than to be humbled. Customers, constituents, citizens, clients, and communities are ultimately who we work to serve. We need to listen to them. The public no longer looks at government like a parental system ("Don't Do This!"), but rather as a system that (often without choice) controls many components of their life. If they could find these services elsewhere (which is happening more and more with technology), our citizens probably would. Be humble and remind yourself that we are here to serve.
4. Do a Few Great Things -- This is perhaps the most interesting point Cook makes. He stresses that Apple's tremendous success was based on the fact that they focused on only a handful of things and did them extremely well. They dominate the music player, cell phone, and tablet markets with only a handful of options. Believe it or not, emergency managers can take this same attitude. We need to focus limited resources on a limited number of projects or initiatives that we can do really well. The remaining "necessary" issues need to come in partnership with volunteer groups, public-private partnerships, student internships, and other alternative strategies. This is a monumental shift for most organizations who try to juggle so many proverbial balls that we probably don't do anything really well. We simply do everything so-so.
5. Admit When You Are Wrong -- Much like customer feedback, it is important for emergency management organizations to admit when we get something wrong. No one likes mea culpas, but it is critically important. Our constituents know exactly when we screw up. There's no sense in trying to deny it. The faster we embrace and fix it, the faster we can get back to do doing a few things great and ultimately improve our communities.
In the end, these types of approaches are coming whether we are comfortable with them or not. Citizens no longer accept that government is different. They question why a three year old can manipulate an iPhone, but we struggle to have touch screen voting booths. These things must be addressed and Cook provides some great insight.
Leave a comment
Most emergency managers would agree that 2012 was a major year for both disasters and the continued impact of social media and other emerging technologies. To highlight the later, I collected the following top buzzwords for social media and emergency management for the last year. While these buzzwords don't necessarily represent new concepts or technologies, they are issues that seemed to have risen to the top of interest and important to the field of emergency management over the last year.
#SMEM-- This is a Twitter hashtag used by a growing number of emergency managers and first responders to share information and collectively address rising issues and concerns related to social media and disaster response. In a matter of a couple of years this collection of thoughts and thought leaders has become a go-to source for validation and verification of a variety of issues.
Crowdsourcing -- This is the concept that the collection of individuals, communities, interests, etc. can be a very powerful asset or enemy depending on the circumstances. Fairfax County (VA) became the first government organization (that I am aware of) to officially push out a Ushahidi crowdmap during the preparedness period before Superstorm Sandy.
Mobile Devices -- While cell phones have been available and utilized for many years, the rise of tablet computing joined cellular devices as a nearly ubiquitous option for people in all community and social sectors. Emergency managers have had to quickly change their approach in how they deliver information to their community by utilizing social media, mobile websites, or apps. For example, the American Red Cross rolled out a variety of emergency preparedness mobile apps to help people become more prepared for hurricanes, first aid, and other issues.
VOST -- The public use of social media to communicate during disasters has finally pushed emergency managers to identify alternative management strategies such as the Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST). The concept utilizes non-localized volunteers to search, filter, and aggregate disaster related information and report it back to the Emergency Operations Center. Teams are being deployed throughout the world due to its innovative and resource-efficient approach.
Instagram & Pinterest -- Social photo sharing sites played a huge role in 2012 disasters. Disasters were defined not by images captured my professional media, but rather through the mobile devices of those impacted or living through the event. At its peak, there were 10 photos posted to Instagram per second during Superstorm Sandy.
So there it is. What did I miss? Where am I wrong? I know for sure that 2013 will be an amazing year to watch to see how emergency management and disaster response is particularly changed through these systems.
Leave a comment
Latest Emergency Management News
Experts in emergency management say Albert Ashwood’s long experience and innovative thinking have helped ease those recoveries.
Students at the Oklahoma State University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering designed preliminary storm drones that could someday gather data that saves lives.
The test program equips SWAT officers with computers and cameras so when out in the field, trauma surgeons can help them respond to critical injuries.