I’ve often commented that tools don’t make the process when talking with church organizations about social media and communications in general. I think this issue has only been further compounded as the many options for tools have increased and continue to do so. To this end I feel like we’ve all lost track of the mission: reaching new people, keeping people informed, and interacting with both of the former. (Read=Lost people, members/attenders, and everyone in-between.) We don’t need new tools to innovate church communications, we need solid, proven ministry practices and processes.
Let me explain: When one is considering building a bird house most of us would probably just go to Wal-Mart and buy one. (Or which ever bird house mart you prefer.) But, for those who like a little more adventure, they journey into their basement and/or garage to actually build it. For these experts of the craft they follow a process something like this: Step one: gather what you need to be successful at building your bird house (i.e., plans, materials, tools, etc.) Ultimately, combining these things should result in a bird house. However, most of us also know that it’s how we combine these items that measures our level of success. For example, plans need to be for what you actually want to accomplish and simple to understand. The materials should last and not create unneeded waste, and finally the tools should help you accomplish the task not make it more complicated. (Anyone see where this is going yet?) The path to success is then to follow the right plans, assemble your materials in the right way, while using the appropriate tools. Simple, right?
So how does this relate to your church’s social media and overarching communications plan:
1) Plans/Processes/Procedures: Like building a bird house, you need good plans to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. These are much like our ministry processes. Lacking solid, documented ministry processes, you end up building a dog house when all you wanted was a simple place for a blue bird to call home. For the church today, this should come in the form of an all-encompassing communications plan. This plan can cover all things from branding, marketing, website, bulletins, mass mailings, podcasts, videos, and of course social media. It’s all related and important to keep aligned and all involved accountable to the plan.
2) Materials (Read content): should be what you need to accomplish the job and should be of good quality. (i.e., videos, podcasts, mailings, bulletins, etc.) We all want to ensure the work we do lasts, answers the task at hand, and ultimately glorifies God. If we don’t, then we may end up with a great plan and/or process, but then fail in the delivery for not taking the time to ensure that our messaging/content/communications actually make sense in the context of what we are trying to accomplish.
3) Tools (Read social media platforms/content management systems/etc): Everyone wants the shiny new tool that’s on sale at Home Depot (or Lowes if you like) but do you need it? Does it help you accomplish your goal or only look pretty, take up space, and cost a lot of money? Does it even do the task you need it to do? Have you ever bought a tool that claimed to do a bunch of things including the ONE thing you need it to do, just to find out it doesn’t even do the task you need it to all? Social media and content management can absolutely be daunting in this respect. Everything is “new” or “popular”, but before you jump into the fold you should look to your communication plan and see what you are trying to accomplish as a church. Which tool best fits your goals? Blanketing the market may be an option, but in the face of small or non-existent budgets some times targeting your approach will yield the best results. Learn the tools and match their benefits and reach to your communications plan for best results and then expand as you grow.
So, maybe social media isn’t quite like building a bird house, however often times I feel we are losing sight of our task, our target audience, and the intended end state by being blinded by the shiny new tool on the shelf that promises to do everything including slice my fresh bread before a meal. Knowing the task and how you are going to accomplish it is most important today along with delivering good and relevant content to those you hope to reach. Social media and content management tools are supposed to help accomplish the tasks and support the process, not BE the process, etc. It’s time we focus on getting things done and producing results by way of using the correct tools for the job. Social media/web2.0/shiny web objects of choice are just that, tools: Some are good for accomplishing what your church needs and others are just new fancy tools that do too much for their own good. Focus on your ministry’s mission, the audience, and your organizational goals and allow the appropriate tools fall into place to make the overall experience better. Don’t fall for what every pitchman has for you or what’s on sale at the front of the mega shopping center store this holiday season, or what ever some megachurch is using with great success. Bottom line: Tools, no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the solution, they are only the means to accomplishing your goals. Make a plan, do your research and watch your ministry grow through good content and audience engagement.
Today is a big day for social media and emergency management: The Emergency 2.0 Wiki is now live! For those already in the know about #SMEM and its rather large following this is great news. For those of you that have no idea what ‘m talking about, let me fill you in: #SMEM is the twitter hash tag that a great deal of emergency management professionals are using to track conversations and connect on topics that involve the use of social media in emergency management. (Did you catch that? Social Media in Emergency Management..Clever right?..moving on..)
The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Project, as it has been deemed, is an international group of emergency management professionals from every corner of the globe and is current lead by Eileen Culleton an emergency management professional from Queensland, Australia. Like most organizations of its type, its followers and supports come together via multiple forms of social media including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and of course their brand new Wiki. However, unlike a lot of social media outlets, this one is specifically dedicated to the profession of emergency management and how to use technology to better keep citizens informed during disasters. With experienced professionals from all over the world inputting their lessons learned and best practices, people can search the wiki for just about any related topic and find input on just about any type of emergency situation.
The Emergency 2.0 Wiki has now been officially online for a few hours, but be sure to check in and see what’s going on. Eileen and crew have been reaching out around the clock for people to help provide content on different topic areas and many around the glob have answered the call. This is a huge moment for emergency management professionals the world over and even more so for those directly involved with the project. Like any wiki, the success of this tool will hinge on the community and those that choose to help support the efforts.
Bottom line here is that the #SMEM community grows almost by the hour and new professionals come to the plate to discuss what they are up to and/or issues they face. If you are interested emergency management and the use of social media, this is a great starting point to plug into a worldwide community of professionals.
This topic has been coming up a lot lately. I wrote about it a few weeks back: Social Tools Do Not a Process Make. A lot of people are overly focused on technology as a solution rather than a tool that can be used to re-enforce good policy, procedures, etc. (Read=Process) Fellow GovLoop-er, and communications consultant, Steve Radick has mentioned this a few times in his blogs as of late as well.
One can argue that “2.0 technology” is so “large” or “innovative” that it’s a game changer, but this is a standard technology argument that is as old as the world it’s self. One must recall the definition of technology to understand my point: (According to Merriam-Webster) Technology=”a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.” By this definition technology isn’t a “thing” it’s a how and this is important to understand in discussion. Changing how we do something requires good process, methods, and/or knowledge. Lacking any of these things technology typically serves to only make things more complicated instead of easier. (As stated, how many projects can one point to that has suffered this reality?) Thus, we suffer from the reality that technology can be a double edged sword if not applied correctly to resolve a problem and in fact can end up causing more problems than it was implemented to resolve. (If this is the case, then by technical definition you have already failed.) This is the root problem in technology innovation: We can be motivated to change process due to some shiny new object that promises world peace, when all we really needed was a tool/technology that makes our processes better.
So, I leave you with this: 1.) Innovation for the sake of innovation is typically doomed to fail as it doesn’t have a problem to solve. 2.) If lacking solid process, methodology, and/or knowledge technology will typically lead to frustration rather than solutions. and 3.) Tools/Technology: no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the independent solution, they are only a means to accomplishing the mission/goal.
Technology does make our lives easier, but only appropriately applied technology to existing (and solid) processes change the world we live in for the better. What we need is a “Process 2.0” driven work place, that uses the right techonlogy for the job and appropriately engages people while solving problems.
The good folks at CrisisCommons and the entire #SMEM community constantly are discussion the values and challenges surrounding the use of social media by organizations to pass important emergency related information during a disaster. For this discussion, I will be focusing on the role of social media from the context of keeping people informed. Specifically, I was intrigued to write on this topic after reading a recent piece by Patrice Coultier entitled, “Of Emergency Warnings and Being Convincing.” Patrice, as usual, has provided an interesting (..and international) look at the way emergency management organizations use tone and different styles of approach in delivering important emergency information to citizens. This ultimately got me to thinking about the role of the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the integration of technology tools in assisting in providing information to the masses.
With social media now a more common piece of every day information flow around the globe and very much so here in the United States, I am left to consider its impact on the PIO’s day-to-day job. As many are already aware, the PIO’s primary job is to act as the “official voice” of an organization and in this case we’ll assume the PIO to be a part of a governmental function. Therefore, during an emergency this person is the individual, or team of individuals, who should be providing the public with information on an emergency as the official source. (This is where Patrice’s article on approach, tone, and the like comes to play.) However, I feel that more and more in today’s technology laden landscape the PIO in many jurisdictions have either entirely ignored the social media space, misused it, or are just starting to grasp it. To this end, I think there are some key items that should be considered:
- Be the Official Source: This seems far to logical to be stated, but I feel a lot of jurisdictions have let this basic concept of PIO work go by the way side, simply because a new technology is at play. Think of it this way: The PIO’s job has not changed in the new social media landscape, it has simply been expanded. PIOs should not be doing anything more, less, or different than before. Social media is simply another tool in the tool box of a communications professional (the PIO) to use and reach his/her target audience. To this end, the PIO should work in social media, as appropriate, to their communciations plan and work with social media outlets to obtain “verified” and/or “validated” accounts where possible. This allows the PIO’s presence on the internet to be a confirmed, trusted, and official source for information.
- Open the Two-Way Street: For the longest time the job of a PIO was to push information. With today’s technology PIOs can act as a two-way conduit for information to the public and information received by the public. Opening up this two-way dialog during an emergency allows PIOs to get the important, validated information out, but also take in new information from the public. This allows response organizations to better plan for operations, but also allows the PIO and the emergency management organization to validate issues and reissue confirmed statements to the public writ large. Remember, this is a huge issue with social media: After a disaster many people will begin self-reporting information creating a cross section of accurate, embellished and completely false information that many people will take as accurate unless someone steps in as the official source and validation point for information. This is a function best owned by the PIO shop and is honestly the best place for growth right now in the SMEM world in my opinion.
- Be Honest: One item that used to be difficult for some PIO organizations was the ability to be 100% open and transparent during events. This is an older model of only releasing 100% confirmed information while remaining silent on unresolved/unconfirmed issues. To this end, social media has made it more possible for PIOs to obtain more information faster and get it back out faster and more widespread. (Just as mentioned above, the two-lane street is open for business and can some times be a super highway.) One of the greatest impacts of using social media is the ability to interact and be part of the situation. Often times PIOs are seen as the one on TV that just pushes random information while being separated from the event. Now, PIOs can be in the mix and engaging their public directly and one of the best ways to obtain trust and authority is to be honest in your transactions. I think you will find that many people will provide more information and be more willing to follow instructions and guidance if they feel like they are directly involved.
- Recruit, Standardize, and Innovate: Let’s face it, PIOs have it pretty rough some times and much like their host organizations they are generally drastically understaffed when things start happening. This is not lost on many of us, in fact there are many volunteer organizations out there that exist purely to fill the void during disasters, however it’s time we start looking at the problem in front of us and begin working on filling the gaps. Social media use in disasters have resulted in a flood of information at the one time that many shops down’t have the personnel to sort through the noise and find the information that is most important. To resolve this I am becoming a heavy supporter in the age of the “digital first responder.” A phrase, that the Red Cross seems to get most credit for coining, that basically means volunteers that will help become the PIO’s filter during an emergency. This cadre of volunteers can be brought together whether it be via existing Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers, Red Cross volunteers, or via standing up a specific volunteer group for this function. Train these individuals in the processes of you organization, basic emergency management, and put them to work in front of a computer helping to organize information as it comes in. This frees up the PIO, but also ensures that the public is heard and answers are provided. (They help the two-way street from becoming one-way and a potential hazard to your communications.) This is the greatest area organizations can innovate and help standardize their social media engagement during emergencies.
A natural leader in the open data movement, Adriel Hampton is on a mission and that mission is to get you (yes you) involved.
“On December 10-11, at the winter CityCampSF Hackathon, Gov 2.0 advocates will publicly launch an advocacy campaign to institute an open data standard in San Francisco municipal and California state law.”
If open data standards is something you believe in, as most of us in the business do, Adriel is really working on a major movement here. Sure it may be focused on San Fran right now, but nothing stays in the bounds of a single city and/or state when the answer is one that actually applies coast to coast. And the best way to get from one city to across the nation is to have help from everyone from all over.
So what does “open data” mean to you? Does it mean enough that you’ll jump on board and help out a movement?
Look over the materials Adriel has put together, throw some help his way, and be a part of the future. It’s happening now..
[Source: Adriel Nation]