I’m always on the look out for new ways to leverage social media and mobile technology for crisis management. Not only does it help me better do my job, but it allows me to provide you with helpful insights to better do your job.
That said, it’s the first time that I’ve seen WhatsApp – which is the most commonly used “chat app” in Africa, the middle east and beyond – used as a means for crisis communication and it’s BBC that has taken the initiative.
Listen: TCIP #020 – Managing The Ebola Crisis With Bill Boyd
How to determine what social channels to use for crisis communication
When I present, consult and teach, I’m always asked the question of “which social channels should we be on?” My response is always the same: “Whichever ones your targeted audiences are on and prefer to receive their information from.”
As part of your crisis preparedness and crisis planning prep work, it’s important to:
- Identify and group your stakeholders / audience groups.
- Identify which groups you will need to communicate with in which types of crisis scenarios.
- Determine the platforms that each group is currently on, and how they prefer to receive important information.
When you need to reach a portion of your audience, you want to do so in a way that captures their attention and takes the least amount of effort on their part.
BBC has done this by choosing to use WhatsApp as a strategic Ebola crisis communication platform. Their strategy is as follows:
“The service will provide audio, text message alerts and images to help people get the latest public health information to combat the spread of Ebola in the region. Content will be limited to three items a day, and the service will be in English and French.” – BBC
As technology continues to evolve and people continue to be consumed with it, it continues to present ample opportunity for effective and real-time communication. All you have to do is understand your audiences and keep your eyes open and your strategic thinking cap on!
Kudos to BBC!
After being subscribed to this WhatsApp initiative for several weeks, here’s what I have to say about BBC’s Ebola WhatsApp strategy – and the important lessons that should be applied to your own crisis communication strategies: Lessons From BBC’s Ebola Education Initiative via WhatsApp.
Photo credit: BBC
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
Selam Aberra says
This is incredibly interesting. I regularly use WhatsApp but never thought it could be more than a texting tool. So I am surprised BBC has managed to use it as a platform to handle crises. I guess you can never be too sure of a platform. In the future, I'll just keep in mind that the key, like you said, is to identify social channels once you find the platforms your "targeted audiences are on and prefer to receive their information from." That simple answer should stop people from prematurely writing a platform off as inadequate for their communications' needs.
Melissa Agnes says
You've made a very important point, Selam, thank you! BBC has done what I would have hoped to see others do in this Ebola crisis, but I'm glad they've taken the initiative. It's so important to understand our audiences' use of technology, social media, apps, etc. if we want to strategically reach them effectively in times of emergency. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in with your thoughts, Selam.