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by Bob Pessemier: TiPS: A practical approach to technology

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Social Media Just Won't Go Away
January 16, 2012
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While there are some folks in public safety who embrace the idea, many others are still on the fence or down-right resistant to the whole concept. If you are on the fence or holding social media at arm’s length, Brett Hicks is out to change your mind.

Brett has authored A Guide to Incorporating Social Media into Public Safety Communications. This 38 page “How-To” booklet will help you understand what social media can do for your agency and how to get started. The main reasons Brett sees for using social media in public safety are:

  1. It’s free. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are available at no charge.
  2. There are real world examples of how social media benefits public safety agencies (he describes some in the guide)
  3. It is not technically complicated.


One of the big benefits of social media is the ability to communicate more effectively with the population you serve. For example, The Los Angeles Fire Department used Twitter to update the public about the Chatsworth train derailment in September 2008 and uses it on a daily basis to update the public structure fires and other incidents. Facebook has set up Amber Alerts pages for all 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Another great way to use social media is for day-to-day basis is alerts for snow days and road closures.

Private companies make extensive use of Twitter and Facebook. They see the value in this form of communication. Ever so slowly the public sector is coming to recognize it as well. Part of this, according to Brett, is a cultural issue, some of it is generational , and some of it is just fear. But Brett reassures that “it is not as scary as some people think”. The top three things to keep in mind are:

  1. Get to know it and start slow.
  2. Choose your applications wisely and align the social media effort with your overall communications strategy.
  3. Monitor and manage the content from both directions (what you send out and what comes back).


Brett sees a number of areas where social media can help you including:

  1. To educate and inform the public during emergencies
  2. To educate the public before emergencies happen
  3. Fundraising
  4. Day-to-day alerts and messages


A key component is to develop a social media strategy which means you will need to

  1. Identify Your Audience
  2. Determine Objectives
  3. Identify and Understand Social Media Applications
  4. Agree on Investment of Resources (time and effort)


To give you even more fuel for fire, Brett also discusses Crisis Informatics, Social Convergence, and Social Dynamics which all add to the reasons to look at social media. Brett’s guide is an easy and practical read. It will help you understand what social media can do for you and how to get started. It is well worth the time.

About Brett Hicks

Brett is an Assistant Professor as several universities across many programs of study.  He has been involved with the delivery of education for more than 15 years in multiple learning management platforms and educational modalities.
 
Brett possesses an extensive international background in curriculum development, social media implementation, and educational leadership.  In addition, his professional accomplishments in health care administration, emergency management, global health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief brought him individualized and team recognition during over 19 years and practiced in countries such as the Philippines, Australia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and Iraq.

Contact Brett at bretthicks58@gmail.com

Brett’s book, A Guide to Incorporating Social Media into Public Safety Communications, can be purchased at Lulu.com: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/a-guide-to-incorporating-social-media-into-public-safety-communications/18631667?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/1

For those looking for even more information, Brett has also developed an undergraduate class at American Public University - EDMG321 Social Media Application to Emergency and Disaster Management.  More at http://www.apus.edu/.

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