As we continue to clean up from Hurricane Sandy, we look back on communication efforts before, during and immediately after the disaster and begin to analyze which tactics were most effective and which ones missed the mark. Hurricane Sandy put a large strain on communication because it knocked out both telephone and power lines. People were left in the dark, literally, for days without use of many forms of modern communication. Associations were forced to find ways to get around the temporary void of electronic communications and reach members in a more basic way.
One of the main concerns of those in the disaster area was keeping their cellphones charged and working. What better way to reach those people than through mobile updates? More than 60 percent of Facebook users view the site with a mobile device. Associations harnessed this information and contacted their members by way of Twitter and Facebook status updates. They posted links to post-disaster recovery resources for those who were affected by the storm, as well as ways to donate to disaster relief organizations for those who were not directly affected.
The Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM), for example, posted a status update to Facebook directing members to the resource page on its website. The page included links to PRSM publications with emphasis on past articles relevant to disaster clean-up, as well as links for national relief organizations such as the Red Cross and FEMA.
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) also used social media to push information to members by posting a link to an article on its website about precautions to take before using water from flooded wells. After the hurricane, NGWA posted a link to The White House blog that offered suggestions about how to help the survivors of the hurricane.
Associations also used the timeliness of Twitter to keep members informed. The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) tweeted about the progress of member utility companies who traveled to the disaster area to help restore power to those affected.
Local government officials tapped into the usefulness of social media as well. In Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker used Twitter to check in with his constituents during and after the disaster. Booker personally responded to those who tweeted pleas for help and even offered his home to a neighbor when she tweeted that Booker had power in his home, but she did not. Booker’s use of social media during the storm helped keep constituents informed and gave them a voice in the relief efforts.
At a time when conventional communication fails, social media once again proves to be one of the best ways to communicate with the masses.
Hillary Levitz is an online marketing specialist with Naylor, LLC.