Social business design in local crisis management

The Australian reports “Facebook the first stop for Queensland Police in floods.”

At first glance, there’s little reason why the Queensland Police Service’s traditional modes of communication needed social media. But when you look closely, the structural issues become evident:

  • People. “We were putting out information rather than responding to requests for information.” Culture and mindset were limiting the effectiveness of communication.
  • Process. “Traditionally, it could take a few hours and go through several layers of responsibility before even a one-paragraph media statement would be issued.” The throughput of existing processes had physical limits.
  • Technology. “If the QPS website was used during the floods and cyclone to post information, we would still be in band-aids.” The mechanics of publishing were constrained by platform functionality, or lack thereof.

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The Queensland Police Service had relied on press releases sent to journalists (1-1 private distribution) who in turn broadcast the messages (one-to-many public transmission), with time-dependent engagement – i.e. message recipient had to be listening/watching/reading at the right place at the right time. Moving to Facebook bypassed a step and released content straight to public/all communication, with the added benefit of persistent online presence.  

But don’t leave here thinking that social media is a silver bullet as solution or killer of traditional media – QPS realizes that channel integration, content curation, and participation policy are critical to success.

I hope to never encounter the difficulties that Queensland did, but if I do I hope that my local first responders communicate as effectively as this great example of social business design in municipal management.

Thanks to @ej_butler for the tip.

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