A Communications Wake-up Call

Posted on October 7, 2021

Yellow signs with black text that says wake up call ahead

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Danielle Rogers, Community Marketing Manager for Newton, Iowa. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Listening To: The Wine & Crime Podcast. A true crime / comedy podcast. From their website “Join three childhood friends as they chug wine, chat true crime, and unleash their worst Minnesota accents!”

Reading: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Watching: The Vow and The Way Down

Welcome to the other side (cue the Adele songs of a similar title) of the blip. We can all mark ourselves safe from the most significant outage of Facebook and its other platforms. But we should also move forward with this piece of knowledge. The “Great Facebook Outage” of October 4th should be a wake-up call for everyone in local government.

I’m in a couple of group chats and messages with fellow government social media managers, marketing managers, and communication professionals. Throughout the day, we cracked jokes and shared memes. We kept each other updated on what we could find out about the outage (there was a giant game of jinx going on). We lamented about the fact that this was probably temporary even if we wanted it to be permanent. There was one thing that came out in multiple conversations. That was that we, as a society and as local government communicators, can’t depend on social media alone to get our messages out.

Your Website Should Be Your Homebase

From the start of my career in local government, I have said that our website has to be our primary digital tool. I have made it my mission to ensure that it is the hub of information about the City of Newton. I’ve even taken to preaching this sermon to my local community’s business owners and organizations. Many don’t have websites and depend on a Facebook Page as their website. Few have taken me seriously, but hopefully, the outage yesterday gets them thinking.

Explore Other Digital Tools

ELGL’s Reaching the Broader Social Media Landscape series discussed how you don’t own your followers on social media. It’s imperative not to depend on just one communications platform. There’s more to social media than just Facebook. The webinar talked about Nextdoor, YouTube, blogs, Reddit, and TikTok. I always say that you shouldn’t be where your audience isn’t. But now, in the same breath, I will say there is a need to diversify the tools you have in your toolbox. You can’t just have one wrench for all of the nuts and bolts it takes to communicate.

Go Low-Tech

My friend, Bronlea Mishler of Bronlea M Consulting, shared this great LinkedIn post where she shares how we need to know what low-tech communication resources exist in our community and how to use them (who owns them, how to contact them). I know here in Iowa, with two emergency operations centers under my belt, our local newspaper, and local radio station were lifesavers in the past year. Even if people think those mediums are dying – I wouldn’t count them out yet.

I have also gained contacts at local businesses with community bulletin boards. I’ve found contact information for local places of worship. I continually build relationships with local organizations that I know serve people during a crisis. Why? Because I know that if I need to go low-tech and print simple flyers on paper, these are the places to go. They will get the information in the hands of people. This low-tech network will get the job done.

Have a Backup Plan

Emergency plans don’t happen overnight. And that’s true for communication backup plans. Understand what you have, what you need, and how they all fit together regarding your communication tools and channels. Putting together a readily accessible document is essential to getting your message out to your residents, whatever the circumstances.

Serving as PIO for our county-wide EMA has made the thought of creating a backup plan for a backup plan not so farfetched. If you’re struggling, reaching out to them may be a way to get started – it’s their job to be ready and prepared. And whatever your backup plan is, make sure it is as inclusive as possible. Communicating with different groups is key to successfully getting your message heard.

At the end of the day, we need to move forward with the following in mind:

We have to educate our leaders (both elected and staff) that social media is “borrowed” and “leased” space. We need to own a piece of the digital space and diversify our communications toolbox so that if, and when, another blip happens, we’re ready.

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