Washington Post blogger Melissa Bell wrote this minutes ago about the use of social media and the Internet in organizing information amid the chaos in Japan after the tsunami: “I’m in awe of it all.” I am, too.
As a media relations professional at a college (that has a strong study abroad program), a top priority this morning was disseminating the news that we currently, luckily, have no students in Japan. First place I posted this info? Facebook, where we have almost 4,500 fans, and likely the first place most people go to discover this type of information. Second place? Twitter.
Let me point out that if we had students in Japan, my media relations strategies would have been vastly different, because then you’re dealing with, first and foremost, parents and family members and more sensitive information. It would have involved additional outlets to get the information across, due to the additional interested and effected parties.
While I was searching for information to post on social media, I was also under deadline to shoot the same information to our local newspaper, whose deadline was 9:30 a.m. for today’s afternoon print edition.
We have alumni in Japan, and we needed to obtain information about their safety. Where do we turn? Facebook. There’s some success: we’re able to determine that some alumni are ok; others’ privacy settings don’t allow us to view their walls.
In our Facebook update (that let everyone know that no current students are in Japan), I also asked for alumni and friends to comment with updates if they or someone they know is currently in Japan. We got a response less than an hour later: a graduate who is currently teaching in Japan had been in contact with his fellow alumni who are also in Japan, and everyone is okay. This was, of course, reposted on Twitter for that separate audience.
In addition, reporters all over Twitter are asking for local ties to the situation in Japan, and I was able to let them know, for use in their stories, of our current situation.
I strongly suggest you check out Melissa Bell’s blog post: it’s amazing how we’re using our technology resources to inform and help others in this time of crisis.
(Thanks for your help on this, @anotheradam. This one’s dedicated to you.)