Peak Performance Requires Practice
The rash of natural disaster across Australia and New Zealand in the summer of 2010/11 created some social media heroes and zeroes. Hundeds and thousands of people flocked to the Qld Police Facebook page for timely and reliable information turning their media folk into heroes. In contrast, local government emergency management official communications were being outpaced by their kids smartphones and their communities felt they were left in the dark.
The experience has validated social media for many folk in local government who were previously prone to dismiss it as the plaything of the digital natives. Effective emergency management requires a rapid flow of information to allow people to respond to events that are unfolding in real time. Peer to peer communication through new media channels such as Facebook and Twitter can get the message out in a way that traditional media just can’t. I think Councils now get that.
The response? Generally speaking Councils are establishing presences in the mainstream social media channels. But only for emergency management use! The theory is these channels will be turned on when the excrement hits the rotating cooling device.
Anyone else see a problem with this? For 999 days out of 1,000 we’ll pretend this doesn’t exist, then when we are under pressure, we’ll turn it on and start to learn how to use new media while everyone is time pressured, agitated and fatigued. This is a plan to fail.
If you have had the pleasure of hearing anybody from QPS Media talk about the success of their Facebook presence, the clear message is that this didn’t happen overnight. The reason the unit could respond so smoothly and professionally in a time of crisis was that they weren’t learning as they went.
The Facebook page had been established and it formed part of their normal routine of distributing information. They had the best part of a year’s experience under their belt by the time the floods and cyclones rolled through the State. For most of that time their efforts in social media had gone largely unnoticed. Good! If there were mistakes that come with learning, they went largely unnoticed. When it counted, the experience showed.
Councils need to routinely engage with new media channels as part of their routine. Staff, both operational and management, need to get comfortable with this new style of communication and make mistakes when lives aren’t at risk. Putting a first gamer into the grand final isn’t going to give you peak performance.