Case study bc forest_fires_kendall_wood

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Case study bc forest_fires_kendall_wood

  1. 1.    Case  Study:  Reaching  the  Public  Before  the  Fire  Reaches  Them  Province  of  B.C.  Forest  Fire  Digital  Strategy  2009  Purpose  For  the  Province  to  be  able  to  connect  directly  with  the  public  in  a  rapidly  changing  emergency  situation,  such  as  a  forest  fire.  Scope/Context  In  2009,  the  British  Columbia  provincial  government  had  a  strong  internal  emergency  response  structure  but  was  not  yet  active  in  the  emerging  social  media  sphere  nor  did  it  have  any  official  guidelines  in  place.    Challenge  Relying  on  the  static  website  as  the  hub  for  emergency  information  meant  that  it  could  only  be  updated  during  office  hours.  But  forest  fires  happen  around  the  clock.  The  provincial  government  needed  a  way  to  get  vital  information  about  evacuations  and  alerts  out  to  the  public  instantly.  In  addition,  it  was  clear  that  conversations  about  the  forest  fire  situation  in  B.C.  were  already  taking  place  in  the  social  media  sphere.  But  because  the  provincial  government  wasn’t  present  on  those  platforms  it  was  losing  an  opportunity  to  educate  the  public  and  stop  misinformation.  Actions  To  respond  to  the  immediate  need  to  provide  real-­‐time  information  the  communications  team  created  a  Twitter  feed  (bcgovfireinfo).  The  Twitter  feed  incorporated  the  hashtag  #kelownafires,  which  was  already  being  used  online,  so  that  government’s  information  would  be  part  of  the  conversation.  The  Twitter  feed  was  used  to  share  real-­‐time  information,  correct  misinformation,  and  drive  traffic  to  important  safety  information  on  the  provincial  website.  Citizens  were  finding  the  Ministry  of  Forests  website  too  dense  and  difficult  to  navigate.  The  communications  team  then  created  a  Wordpress  site,  FireSafeBC  (now  Emergency  Info  BC),  as  a  client-­‐centered  portal  for  information  on  forest  fires.  This  site  was  simple  and  interactive,  with  limited  text  per  page,  concise  navigation  and  prominent  photos,  videos  and  maps.  The  Wordpress  site  housed  everything  from  the  latest  evacuation  orders  to  important  safety  information.  Staff  were  able  to  update  it  whenever  necessary,  ensuring  that  it  was  always  contained  the  most  up-­‐to-­‐date  and  reliable  information.  Because  of  the  high  volume  of  questions  and  conversation  occurring  on  Twitter,  the  communications  team  decided  to  create  a  BC  Forest  Fire  Info  Facebook  page.  The  Facebook  page  still  provided  real-­‐time  information,  but  focused  more  on  engaging  with  their  audience.  The  majority  of  the  traffic  on  the  page  consisted  of  people  asking  personal  questions  (Where  is  the  smoke  coming  from?  Is  there  a  fire  near  my  house?  Where  am  I  supposed  to  go?).  By  responding  to  personal  questions,  the  team  was  able  to  reassure  its  audience  and  stop  misinformation  from  spreading.  
  2. 2.  The  government  used  a  Galaxy  model  –  with  the  Wordpress  site  as  the  hub,  and  Twitter  and  Facebook  as  satellites  to  engage  the  public  and  drive  them  to  the  hub.  All  three  of  these  channels  were  integrated  into  the  wildfire  ad  campaign.  By  using  a  multi-­‐pronged  approach:  advertizing,  media  and  social  networks,  the  government  was  able  to  raise  forest  fire  awareness.    Results  Through  its  social  media  campaign  the  government  was  able  to:  • Provide  a  single  ‘face’  of  government  during  fires  that  threaten  communities.  • Provide  needed  online  support  for  local  municipalities  in  times  of  emergency.  • Maintain  coordinated  messaging  across  different  organizations,  even  when  the  fire  season  got  busy.  The  public  response  to  the  provincial  government’s  social  strategy  was  overwhelming.  On  Twitter  the  government  was  able  to  connect  with  other  emergency  organizations  instantly,  re-­‐tweeting  their  information  or  clarifying  information.  Reporters  were  able  to  follow  the  feed  and  get  real  time  information.  And  the  government  was  able  to  increase  awareness  of  campfire  bans  and  driving  conditions  by  broadcasting  information.  The  Facebook  page  took  off  as  the  users  started  to  take  ownership  of  it.  It  became  THE  place  on  Facebook  to  connect  about  forest  fires  in  B.C.,  which  meant  that  people  started  connecting  with  each  other,  not  just  with  the  government.  They  also  became  a  self-­‐moderating  community.  The  page  did  have  a  moderator  policy,  but  it  was  seldom  invoked,  as  users  would  instantly  chide  those  using  the  site  improperly.  The  government  received  strong  support  and  approval  for  its  use  of  social  media  during  the  2009  fire  season.  The  public  thought  the  government  was  being  proactive  by  using  social  media  to  connect  with  citizens  and  were  positive  towards  the  government  online.  Best  Practices  See  it  from  public’s  point  of  view  –  All  the  tools  were  created  in  response  to  a  public  need  and  with  the  user  in  mind.  This  determined  the  look  the  type  of  information  of  each  site.    Go  where  people  are  –The  provincial  government  went  to  where  conversations  were  already  happening  –  Twitter  and  Facebook  –  and  joined  in.  Be  mobile  –  The  tools  needed  to  be  updatable  by  anyone,  at  anytime,  anywhere.  Using  social  media  meant  that  staff  did  not  need  to  be  at  a  computer,  they  could  be  in  the  field  with  a  mobile  device  or  at  home  (during  evening  shifts).  Break  down  silos  –  All  relevant  partners  were  brought  on  board,  so  that  the  Ministry  of  Forests  wasn’t  acting  alone.  By  looping  other  relevant  provincial  ministries  into  the  planning  stages  the  communications  team  was  certain  their  channels  had  accurate  information  and  support.  Operationalize  –  Before  the  fire  season  was  over,  staff  training  had  been  developed  on  how  to  use  the  tools,  and  guidelines  were  created  to  manage  content.  This  meant  that  more  people  could  participate  in  managing  the  channels  without  the  channels  losing  their  personality.    
  3. 3.  Conclusion  In  times  of  emergency  the  public  looks  to  the  government  for  direction.  The  British  Columbia  provincial  government’s  social  strategy  provided  clear  leadership  and  instilled  public  confidence  because  the  government  went  to  where  its  audience  was  already  active  and  provided  them  with  valuable  real-­‐time  information.                                              
  4. 4.                  
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