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‘Best practices in crisis communications’

START research informs MEMA workshop

START’s Dr. Elizabeth Petrun recently presented findings from the Training in Risk and Crisis Communication (TRACC) Program during a workshop hosted by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in Annapolis, Md. Social media managers from around the state gathered in the Maryland State House to discuss current challenges, best practices, and practical ways to improve their communication.

Other presenters included William Delaney from Montgomery County Fire & Rescue and Lori Livingston from the Office of the Governor.

During her talk, “Best Practices in Crisis Communications,” Petrun discussed online audiences, ethical considerations for using social media, and media tools. She also presented a START case study on the CDC’s Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Campaign. The case, developed by doctoral student Julia Daisy Fraustino, was positively received by the audience, spurring an engaging discussion over the merits of humorous or entertaining messages surrounding emergency preparedness.

Key takeaways from Petrun’s talk included:

  • How and when to manage digital rumors;
  • Discussion of best platforms for social support vs. creating viral messages;
  • Social media credibility of government agencies; and
  • Differences in disaster responses between men and women.

Her briefing was drawn from TRACC’s portfolio of research and papers, as well as the Social Media Use during Disasters project and other resources including a Red Cross Survey that found web users increasingly rely on social media to seek help in a disaster.

The TRACC program is a two-year effort funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency through START. It aims to put scientific research to use in developing and delivering theoretically rigorous and practical training for risk and crisis communicators in the United States.