Who fail in Calgary? Should we rethink crisis communications management?
It is really a pity, not to say it makes me feel a bit ashamed, seeing how Twitter failed to provide the expected coverage to @CalgaryPolice, an account who was wonderfully giving answers, support and feedback to thousands of citizens during Calgary floods. @CalgaryPolice managed the situation when Twitter locked their account (due to an overused, according to Twitter terms) by redirecting the traffic to Digital Communications Officer, Jeremy Shaw, @CstShaw, who took over tweeting from his personal Twitter account, on behalf of the official police Twitter account.
@CalgaryPolice used its account as the citizens expected. Engaging in conversation, countering criticism, managing volunteers offers and giving answers to questions as well as pulling information using the hashtag #yycflood. It is not this the essence of social media? Well done till here. I won’t bIame them. On the contrary. My congratulations.
I don’t know how many people they needed to engage in that endless conversation but sure it has been an effort well worth. If I were in the middle of a flood, fire or hurricane, I would really appreciate that the authorities answer me in case I use Twitter to ask for help or instructions.
As a citizen I don’t care whether it was Twitter or Twitter algorithm the one who fail, as Simon Fraser University communication professor Peter Chow-White says here. The only thing that matters is that the account was shut down in the middle of an emergency for hours.
If we all agree that Twitter has become a fundamental channel in crisis communications, as it was during Sandy Hurricane, to quote but one example, how can it be possible that Twitter made a Twitter jail in the middle of a crisis of that dimension? I know rules must be obeyed, that’s what they are for. Otherwise no one would be able to know what to expect.
Having this scenario two questions come to my mind:
Is it sensible to rely crisis communications on one single channel? So long as I have seen, Calgary Police did not use its Facebook page during the floods, a channel with a lot of traffic during Sandy Hurricane. Neither had I found videos uploaded to YouTube.
The other questions I wonder is: Do we need a different way to engage with people during an emergency? A reliable and resilient software we can really trust no matter what?
Just thinking aloud.