Social Media Message Library Overview
The following information will tell you more about the library and how to use the messages effectively.
The library includes pre-developed messages for at least 20 different hazards, across three phases of the disaster lifecycle (Preparedness, Response, Recovery), for three different channels (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).
Also featured are pre-developed messages for two broad subgroups of at-risk populations (people with physical disabilities and people with communication difficulties) across five basic disaster scenarios (Emergency Planning, Evacuation, Shelter In Place, Power Outage and Disease Outbreak).
Some messages may be used without significant modifications, but because every emergency and its impact on public health is unique, some will serve as points of departure for users who communicate via social media platforms during disasters.
Messages are organized for easy viewing by hazard and, within each hazard, by phase of emergency response.
The messages were reviewed by individuals with expertise in content areas and in public information and risk communication from the following organizations:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Radiation Studies Branch
- National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC)
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
- National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
- State Health Departments
- New Mexico Department of Health
- Oregon Health Authority
- Pennsylvania Department of Health
- Local Health Departments
- Bucks County Department of Health
- Chester County Health Department
- Philadelphia Department of Public Health
- Local Emergency Management Agencies
- Chester County Department of Emergency Services
- A.J. Drexel Autism Institute
- ALS Center of Hope
Using the Library
This library is designed to serve as a resource that will help your agency provide accurate, consistent and timely information during a public health emergency.
However, this library is NOT an exhaustive list of all the messages you will need to successfully communicate during a disaster, nor does it account for every at-risk population that may be impacted. Each disaster will provide unique circumstances that require specific, tailored messaging that cannot be predicted in advance. In some cases, the messages in this library will serve as starting points for messages that can be adapted to the specific circumstances of a disaster, its impact on a jurisdiction and the vulnerable populations within it and the activities of the response agencies that are involved.
Additionally, social media is used most effectively as a two-way communication tool. Listening to your audience and tailoring messages based on what you are hearing is crucial. The library holds two types of content: hazard-specific messages and population-specific messages.
Hazard specific messages are intended to inform the general public on what measures to take in a specific emergency situation. There are at least 20 specific hazards, each of which is divided into one of four categories: natural disasters, infectious diseases, accidental disasters and intentional disasters. Every hazard includes information for all three phases of the disaster (preparedness, response, and recovery). Each phase is further broken down into different message categories such as “emergency kits” and “food safety.”
The hazard specific messages include some messaging for at-risk populations. However, these messages only provide general preparedness tips across all hazards, and are only relevant for seniors, children and infants and people with special medical needs.
Population specific messages are intended for at-risk populations and their caregivers. Messages are tailored to two different groups, people with physical disabilities and people with communication difficulties. Instead of specific hazards, messages are listed by five basic disaster scenarios: emergency planning, evacuation, shelter in place, power outage and disease outbreak. Messaging predominantly focuses on the preparedness phase.
Things to keep in mind when using the library:
- The messages are organized by the disaster phase for which they are most relevant in order to make it easier to find the content you need.
- Specific messages for certain high risk populations are included. You will find specific categories for content pertaining to children, seniors and individuals with special medical needs.
- Links to more information are provided for many of the messages. We encourage you to link to more information when possible, either by using these links or replacing them with links to your own agency’s resources in order to best tailor the content to your audience.
- In addition to actual messages, you will also find directives included throughout the library. Directives are marked by bold font, and serve as reminders to those using the library. For example, we have included reminders to ReTweet relevant messages from partner organizations.
- Some messages include fill-ins (e.g.. XXX area) so that the content can be tailored to the current situation and to your specific jurisdiction.
- Messages were developed to encourage recent best practices using social media platforms during emergencies (e.g. during Hurricane Sandy, New York City answered questions they received on Twitter during their press conferences). While we highly encourage these practices, make sure that you have the staff to monitor your channels effectively if you use messages that invite questions from your audience.
- The goal was to make the library as thorough as possible, but not all of the messages will be relevant depending on how the actual event plays out. It is up to the public information officer to determine which of the messages to use and in which order to use them.
- The messages include a generic hashtag (#EventHashtag) as a placeholder to serve as a reminder to use a hashtag and to ensure that adding one would not require any additional editing/shortening of the message content.
- All messages are 140 characters or less.
- Many of the Facebook posts include links to more information and/or images. Because Facebook posts that include images are most likely to be viewed, we noted when those links contain images or made a suggestion for the image to include with each message.
- Most of the Facebook messages are 250 characters or less so that the entire message will show up on your Timeline without requiring your audience to click “see more."
- Currently, the library contains limited Instagram content. But, where applicable, we added good examples of images and infographics that agencies have posted during recent disasters.
- We will continue to add content to relevant hazards as we come across new examples.
Using Social Media in a Disaster
Below are some best practices for using social media as part of an effective crisis and emergency risk communication plan.
BEFORE A DISASTER
Build social media into your organization’s disaster communication plan
- Assign specific roles and responsibilities
- Ensure that all staff who will use social media are familiar with your plan
- Build social media into exercises and training
Build your social media audience before a disaster
- Establishing a credible presence in advance will help spread your message during a disaster
- Maintain a continued presence on these channels so that you retain existing followers and continue to encourage new users
- Identify existing social media platforms used by partner agencies and Follow/Like them in order to help broaden your reach
Enroll in Twitter Alerts
Enrolling in Twitter Alerts will allow people to “subscribe” to your organizations so that any message you tag as “critical” will be delivered to them as a push notification or text message, putting your must-know information directly in front of them
DURING A DISASTER
Cease normal operations for social media
- Cancel any automated or scheduled content that is not relevant to the current situation as it may be viewed as insensitive
- Even if a disaster happens outside your area, acknowledging it will build credibility with your audience and helps make you a trusted source of information during a disaster
- Monitor and coordinate the use of #Hashtags with partner agencies. Using the same #Hashtag will make it easier for your audience to get the information they need
- Encourage your audience to use the hashtag when asking questions or conveying needs. This will make it easier for your agency to see important information from them.
- Include links to additional information whenever possible. Messages with images, particularly on Facebook, are more likely to be viewed
- Verify any information before you share it
- Actively monitor all of your channels for rumors and misinformation and correct rumors as quickly as possible
Consider encouraging questions and concerns from your audience
- Only do this if you have the staff to actively monitor your accounts and respond
- If done well, this can greatly enhance the credibility of your agency and help address the needs of your audience
Give your audience a call to action – early and often
- Giving people things to do – even easy tasks like checking a link to learn more, or checking on a neighbor – can help them remain calm and take productive steps to help them stay safe in a disaster
Cross promote accounts
- Promote each of your existing channels wherever possible to broaden your reach and make it easier to reach your audience
- Monitor and ReTweet/Share relevant information from partner agencies
Use social media to broaden the reach of your existing channels
- For example, consider live-tweeting the key points from a press conference your agency (or partner agency) is holding
- Have a YouTube channel? Upload a copy of the press conference to it for people who may have missed it (or couldn’t view it because of a loss of power) on tv
- Example: New York City during Hurricane Sandy
Hold a social media report meeting at the end of each day
- Review monitoring efforts and updated messaging strategy with communications team
Adhere to Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Principles
- Social media offers incredible effective channels for facilitating two-way communication with your audience during an emergency. However, it is only a channel – the message content is still what counts. Be first, be right and be credible. Convey empathy early, tell people what they can do to stay safe and be respectful of your audience and their concerns
SOCIAL MEDIA 101
New to social media and not sure where to start? Below we cover the basics of using social media during a disaster and provide links to helpful resources.
- Each message has a 140 character limit
- Hashtags (#) help people search for information more easily on Twitter. Use them and be sure to coordinate with your partner agencies to ensure that you using the same ones. This will make it easier for your audience to get the information they need.
- Use the following sites to help you shorten the links you want to include:
- RT (short for ReTweet) is how you share someone else’s message to your audience.
- Want to mention a partner agency in a tweet? Use the @ symbol before their Twitter handle (i.e., @CPHRC_Drexel)
- While you are not limited to 250 characters, using 250 or less will ensure that your entire message shows up on your newsfeed.
- Best practice: Provide an image and a link to additional information with your posts. If the webpage you link to has an image, that image will show up in your post.
- Instagram is primarily used to share images, not text. However, you may add a caption to an image (up to 2200 characters).
- Hashtags (#) help people search for information more easily on Instagram. Use them in your captions and be sure to coordinate with partner agencies to ensure that you are using the same ones. This will make it easier for your audience to get the information they need.
Guides to Using Social Media