Helping Nonprofits Communicate

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A Week Later: My Stream of Consciousness and a little What Can We Learn?

Monday morning started like any other morning – our posts were created and scheduled, our metrics were checked, we discussed which nonprofits we’d be talking to and what else needed to be done.  We found funny posts we wanted to share with our community and were excited to share the news that we would be starting a webinar series in June. I was wrapping up about to take a quick afternoon break I saw something fly across my twitter feed – something about Boston? Something happened at the marathon?  I instantly turned on the news. Nothing. Hmm. I went back to twitter and did a hashtag (#) search for #boston and #bostonmarathon and was instantly inundated with information about a bomb going off – I set up search feeds and was watching twitter intently- 10 minutes later the news actually broke on TV.  A few minutes later a video showed up on twitter of the actual explosion.  I was heartsick.  As a runner I could only imagine the devastation emotionally for all involved.  Then I thought about the families of the runners, the ones hit by the bomb.  My gut wrenched.

Immediately I cancelled all our scheduled posts for the rest of the week, especially the rest of the day and instead fell full force into all things Boston.  How could we help? Who needed what information?  Twitter became the go-to place for all organizations including Red Cross, Boston Police, Boston Marathon, and family & friends of those running in the race.  We, along with the rest of the nation, were glued to our TV’s, computers, and smart phones for hours until we felt the news run its course and fell asleep.

Tuesday morning Betsy and I were at a loss about how to proceed with our business accounts.  It was a somber morning for USA and we wanted to respect that and respect all our friends and colleagues who were affected.  It’s a tricky line to walk, isn’t it?  We slowly eased back into business all the while keeping one eye on the Boston tweets and following the tragedy unfolding for families across the nation.

Wednesday, while setting up some articles on twitter, I saw something about an explosion in Texas on my feed.  Again, we assessed what as appropriate in our content and what wasn’t – and watched the story unfolding heart sick for the families in West, TX.

Thursday and Friday were the accelerant days.  We had a client meeting that required me to travel.  While traveling I was ‘off the grid,’ and I can’t being to describe how strange it was to feel so disconnected from the real-time news stream I had become accustom. I ended up calling my husband along the way to check my twitter stream to see if anything had happened (hi, my name is Lori and I’m addicted to twitter). I stayed up late Thursday night and remember commenting to my friend “oh man- there was a shooting at MIT!” We both lamented “what has this world come to?” as we went to sleep.  When I woke up my phone was insane with messages and my feed was blowing up. (it was only 6am) In the few hours I’d been asleep the MIT shooting had been connected to the bombers.  What?! I didn’t have my computer, just my phone – I called Betsy and she cancelled our scheduled posts for the day. We had no idea what the day was going to turn out like and didn’t want to offend or seem insensitive.

I got ready for the meeting. I followed the streams #bostonpolice #watertown #bostonpolicescanner and attempted to listen to NPR. I got frustrated while driving to my meeting that NPR’s reporting was delayed and no different then the news I was receiving on my twitter feed. Our meeting was somber as our client had family in Watertown and was visibly and understandably shook. He was communicating with family via twitter and text.  Betsy and I went to lunch, opened our accounts, read the news and could barely look away. Information was being shared at a lightning speed. We saw pictures of people’s neighborhoods, people’s fears, and swarms of police officers walking down the street of a pleasant and serene suburb. It was really all too crazy to seem real. Eventually, I had to leave and return home.

My husband called me on my way home with the news the second bomber had been captured – it was announced on twitter just minutes before.  The nightmare for Watertown was over.  Maybe questions could be answered.   Sometimes working in media is a little exhausting – constantly having the world in your face and on  your mind.  Do you ever feel that way?

Reflection on the last week:

  • Twitter was the main source of information for most people re: Boston
  • It was imperative as a social media manager to make sure you were in tune with what was happening and not worried (or pushing) about your business agenda
  • Twitter was a place were erroneous claims were made, as were threats (CNN guffah anyone?)
  • Less savy twitter users weren’t RT’ing reliable sources – wreaking unintended havoc
  • Nonetheless, Twitter was the best and most accurate place for up-to-date information
  • Civilian reporting will never be the same – eyewitness news has taken on an entirely new meaning
  • CIA and FBI both claim social media was the gas that accelerated finding the bombers – citing if smartphones and social media had been around for the 1996 Olympics, the bomber would’ve been caught months earlier
  • Personally, I was more inclined to read twitter and follow Boston Police, FBI and City of Boston than I was to watch CNN or NBC

What does this mean for us moving forward? What lessons can be learned? As a social media manager what takeaways can we implement?  How can we respect and turn the media into a help rather than a hinderance? Is traditional TV reporting obsolete  Second only to civilian and live-stream tweeting from on-the-front-line reporters? Has the last week changed how we interact permanently?

What do you think?

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