How Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is using Social Media


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A Case Study: How Médecins Sans Frontières is using Social Media

> presented at 2010

> Wish to acknowledge input of colleagues involved in shaping our social media strategy & this presentation: Ken Tong, Isabelle Jeanson, Nina Privitera, Pete Masters; as well as Jason Cone, Julie Whitaker and others at MSF USA.

This presentation contains a lot of screenshots from our social media experience in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

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  • Wish to acknowledge input of colleagues involved in shaping our social media strategy & this presentation: Ken Tong, Isabelle Jeanson, Nina Privitera, Pete Masters; as well as Jason Cone, Julie Whitaker and others at MSF USA.This presentation contains a lot of screenshots.
  • In the past, our online presence consisted of the corporate web page MSF Canada Unidirectional communication, pushing out information. Our evolution toward social media, or web 2.0 began in late 2006 and has been evolving ever since. We first needed to accept that people were talking about MSF all over the web and that this was a good thing. It meant relinquishing a degree of control over the presentation and context of our content, and also over our ability to track and measure our impact (stats).Summary of the presentation:BlogsAdvocacy site (Condition critical video)HaitiWebinars
  • We started with blogs in early 2007. First-person stories & “Letters from the Field”-type témoignage combined with the power of syndication & the interactivity of “Comments”.
  • The power of his storytelling was so strong his blog began outpacing the front page of our website for visitor traffic.
  • The interactivity between this young doctor in Sudan and his readership became a bit of a phenomenon within MSF. For example he posted a photo that revealed his uncertainty about a diagnosis.
  • And people responded. It made the medical department nervous because they couldn’t control the quality of the medical consultation. But it’s been clear for some time that our physicians are sometimes flummoxed by issues in the field and, for a variety of reasons, they want to reach out to their colleagues for advice… just like they do when they walk down the hall in their Toronto hopsital
  • When he returned from Sudan he revised blog into book form. The book has been published in many countries including Canada, the USA, the UK and Australia.
  • We’ve created numerous special campaigns and mini-sites with a social media dimension. Here’s one about Democratic Republic of Congo called Condition: Critical. As we were wrapping it up we asked visitors to leave messages of support to the people of Eastern Congo. In a classic case of “then what???!” we then struggled to figure out what to do with the comments. Disagreements ensued. Since I was heading to the region anyway, the project manager for the website asked if I wouldn’t mind delivering them. We brainstormed a bit and I headed to North Kivu with a cheap video camera. We have no illusions that we reached many Congolese with this; but it was the best we could do… and it showed our supporters that we had attempted, in a small way, to pass along their sincere messages.Watch the video here:
  • COMMUNICATION CHALLENGESFreedom vs. Control Lack of control in messaging direction – snowball effect Communicate the facts and manage the myths Balance the need to stay neutral while exerting pressure to get people and equipment into Haiti amongst heated diplomatic relations with the Haitian authorities and the US military. Unprecedented scale Disaster on an unprecedented scale amplified by media and NGO frenzy Field staff overwhelmed, all medical structures collapsed: So their priority was not communications Manage the website traffic demand – 2,800% higher than usualEmbracing social media Satisfy public appetite for information in real time as disaster unfolded Ensure public understand our working principles: Balance between independence and collaboration-----COMMUNICATION STRATEGY & TACTICSStrategy:Experimental, rapid, flexibleLearning by doing/learning from others - emulating best practice initiatives within the MSF Movement Online strategy - Social media outlets activated – websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, BoingBoing Embrace blogs, Facebook and Twitter as mainstream methods of communicating to donors and supportersGoals:Visibility Establish fundraising needs and goals Stress MSF‘s ability to adapt to chaotic situations Use social media to reinforce traditional media coverage of our work and to correct misinformationAcceptance Communicate existing presence in Haiti to all audiences, explain principles and role of MSFLeverage Exert leverage via social media to overcome obstacles (e.g. to reverse the flight ban) Follow and feed information to celebrity blogs that are covering the MSF angleEngagement - Demonstrate commitment to transparency and advocacyTactics:Blanket coverage Rapid increase in social media activity - re-tweeting, blog linking, RSS feeds, Facebook shares, etc. Cross fertilization of traditional media and social mediaConscious staffingHaving communications personnel on the ground asap (to be an eye witness-blogger)Reactive/proactive balanceUpdate information as rapidly as possibleEncourage viral messagingThank supporters directly through social networksRapid reaction to misinformation (e.g. myths about dead bodies spreading disease, etc.) ------Results:Exceptional website traffic across all MSF websitesFundraising fast and furiousMSF widely covered in traditional and social mediaGrowth in new audiences in traditional and social media-----Key Learnings:Overall approach fluid rather than strategic – build on spontaneity and integrate into future communications plansA few staff can have tremendous results and impact!The risks of social media in terms of lack of controlFrom poster presented by NinaPrivitera at Lac Leman Communications Forum «Navigating the Social Media Jungle: Strategies for Corporate Communications»
  • We blogged from Haiti, starting with a communications officer (isabelle Jeanson) and then identifying some doctors and nurses to take over.
  • In the months that followed our blogs were picked up by mainstream media.
  • MSF began communicating right away, starting with a news conference.
  • I went back to see what we’d done via Twitter.
  • We have a lot of Twitter accounts. I started a year ago, or so. Reading, learning about the social codes of this particular culture. And I started tracking who else was doing it.
  • MSF offices. MSF staff. Some of them say they work for MSF. Some of them don’t say they work for MSF in their profile but they mention it in their tweets.
  • Lots and lots of tweets going out there.
  • More and more every month. And we have no international guidelines, per se. A lot could go wrong. But so far, a lot more has gone right. Here’s what happened after the Haiti earthquake.
  • This is the mother of all our Twitter accounts @MSF_USA
  • And this is me @AvrilBenoit
  • We started Tweeting the night of the quake.
  • We were out there in the media. Strictly reactive.
  • We linked to important content from other organizations.
  • @AnnCurry has 1,003,394 followers. saw our posting about about the planes. She tweeted it about it. Then Jeff Pulver, social media guy, Dmed her that tha Air Force had its own account. The back and forth began.There was plenty going on offline: she called her contacts in the Pentagon, she spoke to Ban Ki Moon, she spoke to John Holmes from OCHA. It sparked a chain reaction.Our NYC office received calls from various US government agencies. Admiral Mullins, the Director of US-AID, the Pentagon, etc. The combination of our communication Triggered a response from the h
  • This blogger has a logistic background and I respect him a great deal. He was critical of our efforts, and I respect the point he was making here.
  • I responded to put a bit of context around all the Twitter hype.
  • We HAD done many other things… including a tele-conference for news media. We had 140 major media organizations calling in from around the world. I moderated it from Toronto with two of our operations leaders in Port-au-Prince taking the questions.
  • We had used Facebook, too. As a consequence of Haiti we now have about 270,000 fans of our Facebook page.
  • Meanwhile our website got overloaded with visitors.
  • This is from the MSF UK website traffic.
  • We tried to drive traffic to the internal pages of the website in response to specific questions.
  • And so we used Twitter to keep up the relationship with our supporters. Here are a few slices of life as an emergency communications coordinator.
  • Webinars are live interactive web broadcasts from our offices and field locations with broadband high speed internet. This gives our messaging more authenticity & spontaneity, while offering a rare opportunity for the public, prospective recruits & donors to interact with MSF staff – in the true spirit of social media. This is one we did to respond to the overwhelming number of applicants we received from people wanting to help in Haiti.
  • We’ve only done one from the field, and it was a bit of a dud. That’s me looking like a goof in DRC with a very eloquent project coordinator, Marie-Christine Siemerink. Because of firewalls and slow speed we couldn’t see any of the questions from viewers. Still a few technical kinks to work out.
  • Photos by MSF photographer Julie Rémy went viral.
  • Thanks to social media support from mainstream media.
  • But sometimes if felt like the info was careening around in ways that were not especially helpful. We received specific pleas that required tactful responses.
  • One story in particular sparked a great many offers of specific help (flights, cars) that, frankly, overwhelmed us and proved to be a distraction.
  • The social media work continues, even for local events like the Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City.
  • Above all, the feedback we received (this is for Isabelle Jeanson’s blog posts) heartened us.
  • And we could not have done any of this without a lot of help from people around the world.
  • How Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is using Social Media

    1. 1. A Case Study:How Médecins Sans Frontières is using Social Media<br />@AvrilBenoît<br />May 18 2010<br />
    2. 2. 2<br />MSF & social media | May 2010<br />
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    9. 9. HAITI Communication challenges<br />Freedom vs. Control<br />Unprecedented scale<br />Embracing social media<br />Comms (strategy) tactics<br />Experimental, rapid, flexible<br />Goals: visibility, acceptance, leverage<br />Tactics: Blanket coverage, conscious staffing, reactive/proactive<br />Results<br />Exceptional traffic<br />Fundraising success<br />Wide coverage, growth in new audiences<br />Key learnings<br />A few staff can have tremendous impact<br />9<br />MSF & social media | May 2010<br />
    10. 10. 10<br />MSF & social media | May 2010<br />
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    67. 67. VRWCTexan<br />@MSF_canada RT @lightxxx - We have a lady dying of rabies we need Rabies antitoxin asap // at Petionville Golf Course Field Hospital <br />VRWCTexan<br />@MSF_canada RT @lightxxx We have a lady dying of rabies we need Rabies antitoxin asap #Haiti <br />rqskye<br />@msf_canada RT @lightxxx-We have a lady dying of rabies we need Rabies antitoxin asap<br />rqskye<br />@msf_canada RT @ShaunKing-NYT: 10 kids have died waiting 2 B "cleared" 4 flights. Doctors now afraid of being arrested <br />Weddressproject<br />Why is @MSF_CANADA saying that the Ministry of Health is going to see #BABYLANDINA today, but we are still trying to get them to go there? <br />about 19 hours ago from web <br />Weddressproject<br />@MSF_CANADA You stated earlier that the Ministry of Health was going to see #BABYLANDINA. When is that goig to happen? <br />about 20 hours ago from web <br />MelyMello<br />The life and/or death of a child should not be fodder for political postering. #SaveLandina @UN @MSF_US @MSF_canada<br />4:11 PM Feb 7th from web <br />VRWCTexan<br />@MSF_canada RT @ShaunKing Need current contact inform & GPS coordinates for baby & docs MSF: we are ready to move <br />8:32 PM Feb 6th from web in reply to MSF_canada<br />67<br />MSF & social media | May 2010<br />
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