For the past few years I've been blogging and writing on why government agencies are having problems adapting to social media. In a recent article on his blog, homeland security expert Chris Battle sums up the issues very eloquently. In speaking to his law enforcement colleagues, Battle reminds them in very direct language that social media is about a dialog and that government agencies can no longer control the message.
If we continue to look at social media as simply a means of getting our message out, we fail both to engage the public and to make full use of this new medium. As Battle points out, social media is not merely a news aggregator or a substitute fax machine. It's not simply about sending routine information. It's about a willingness to hold a conversation. It's about understanding that each form of social media requires different composition - you can't just tweet your press release. It's about understanding that each platform may connect with a different audience.
So stop thinking about social media as press tools. Think instead about building a constituency. If you want credibility during crisis, you need to have credibility before the crisis.