Social Media Perspectives on Recent M8.3 Chile Earthquake and Tsunami

Immediately upon getting home last Wednesday, I received the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Notification Service‘s alert for the Chile earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It was a long week with the 2015 SCEC Annual Meeting, so visualize the look on my face when I was ready to unwind but saw that alert come through!

(Hey – I’m not special. You too can sign up the USGS ENS service =>)

Whenever a large earthquake occurs, my job requires me to stay on top of it, communicate information to the public and media as necessary, and dive deep into the conversations happening to learn about what’s going on. Note: I’m not an emergency responder, but a communications professional. Think of it like this: we want to get the most accurate information, because we have people coming to us wanting to get that information. If we don’t know it, we can’t help. (Tons of reasons why, way beyond this blog post, shhh that’s not the point of this post anyway.)

And with a tsunami advisory issued out to California and Hawaii, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get down to business.

Within minutes, I started looking to Twitter. Not too much going on… I quickly deduced that many were probably evacuating due to the probable but unconfirmed tsunami. I didn’t know it at the time, but Santiago (large capital city, and largest city near the epicenter) have pretty legitimate buildings. Chileans have learned a lot.

Proof to us in the United States that hey, strong building codes really do save lives. Imagine that.

But then, this Twitter user (@Maikelsin) posted a few photos that a lot of journalists picked up, and you can see why. Despite all the ruckus, it’s clear: Drop, Cover, and Hold On makes sense. When things are falling and flying, the ground is moving, why try to run? What’s a doorway going to do for you? Think about it…

Drop before the earthquake drops you!

from Mall de la Serena (Coquimbo, Chile). Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

from Mall de la Serena (Coquimbo, Chile). Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

I switched over to our friends at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the NWS (National Weather Service, a division of NOAA) to see what the tsunami situation was like. Tsunami.gov is the absolute resource for tsunami alerts, which is operated by NOAA/NWS’ tsunami warning centers. Sure enough, a tsunami had struck the Chilean coastline within minutes, and it was headed to California and Hawaii. Fortunately, Hawaii and California were mildly affected (enough to bob some boats around and create strong currents).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and National Tsunami Warning Center were tweeting about the earthquake and tsunami, with our accounts retweeting and spreading the information. You should follow them too:

  1. NWS_PTWC
  2. NWS_NTWC

Also, Facebook’s new “Safety Check” feature was working well, as NBC Chicago reported. See how one woman living in San Diego was able to discover that most of her friends back in Chile were safe and well.

NBC Chicago Reports

NBC Chicago Reports

CNN summed it up: Chile knows how to deal with earthquakes. So much that maybe we ought to be jealous here in the states.

They also hold the record for the largest recorded earthquake, in fact. The 1960 M9.5 Valvivia Earthquake and Tsunami rocked not only Chile, but the entire Pacific. From the U.S. Geological Survey:

Approximately 1,655 killed, 3,000 injured, 2,000,000 homeless, and $550 million damage in southern Chile; tsunami caused 61 deaths, $75 million damage in Hawaii; 138 deaths and $50 million damage in Japan; 32 dead and missing in the Philippines; and $500,000 damage to the west coast of the United States.

WOW.

Why does the Pacific coast of South America have such huge earthquakes and devastating tsunamis? Find out with IRIS. It’s these big tectonic plates, or blocks of earth’s crusts, that are colliding and involving thousands of square miles. Imagine all that mass, just smashing together. And when it happens under the sea, it shifts water around. Clap your hands under water next time you’re in a pool or bath tub. That water has to go somewhere, right? That’s what creates a tsunami.

When you feel shaking: Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

When you feel shaking: Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

The 3 Rules of Social Media

Stravinsky, doing what he loved before the Twitter bird rolled over his head in this promo shot for The Modern Ear.

Stravinsky, doing what he loved before the Twitter bird rolled over his head in this promo shot for The Modern Ear.

The great composer Igor Stravinsky, known for his controversial Rite of Spring ballet music, once said:

“the more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”

Social media marketing is not as easy as it sounds. How can something with so many users be funneled into a powerful tool for brands, websites, products, and causes? What’s the purpose of it all? Why are there all these character limits? Why can’t I upload GIFs to Facebook but I can to Twitter? Lo, the shackles!

It does not happen overnight, or with a small budget, or just one mystical intern.

You might be going at it the wrong way, or you’re trying to be too over-the-top. Here are a few rules to help you organize your “everyday” and that “annual report.” These are the ingredients to a more successful strategy:

  1. Worry less about creating awesome content, worry more about listening to people. Social media is a gold mine of data. And that data? That data is a bunch of real people. If you are a new eco-friendly clothing brand, search on “eco-friendly” or “environmentally conscious” or “green energy” – build your branding and reputation by engaging in conversations that matter. You will probably generate some leads and uncover new partnerships.
  2. Stop writing long tweets and Facebook posts, post more pictures and video and be thematic. Sometimes the answer to that visual content is laying on your desk or in a store room. Grab some of those promo items, turn them into little figurines that playfully move around your desk in a fun Vine, or make a crossword puzzle that can be tweeted out as an image. Everyone wants to interact and see something atypical, few want to just read your promotional copy. (Unless it’s funny?) Make a schedule, think ahead. You’ll start drawing parallels and connections you never would have thought about. Oh – loop in public relations and marketing calendars too… social media is a tool for them. Be a useful tool.
  3. Set goals and analyze success. What’s attainable and realistic, and how will you measure it?

What are some stories you have that illustrate the “rules” above?

PR in 2015: How to Pack a Punch

Over the past few years, many trends have emerged in our beloved communications industry. Email marketing is still strong, paid and earned social media continue to have their intrigues, and some are still doing customer service well…. but we’ve been through QR codes, Viddy, Google Plus, sponsored flash mobs; enough trends to make a landfill jealous.

However, do not let these fads mislead you. It is often not the platform or device that sells, but the people responsible for steering the ship. So, how are you going to be one of those people this year who packs the punch in 2015?

Photo on 1-10-15 at 10.16 PM #2

You’re going to get better at being editorial (because-you-already-were-kind-of doing it, right?)

This means, and don’t take it lightly:

1) You will look ahead this year (and into January or February of next, because we all know that stuff hits the fan when you come back from winter holidays). Plot out what the highlights will be for your company (product release, quarterly report dates, etc…), and the nation/world (elections, holidays, and more). I find a big whiteboard helps, but hey – pencil and paper does just fine.calendar-36971_1280

2) You will look at all those opportunities, and fill in time for necessary preparations (brainstorming, meetings, analysis, and more). Don’t underestimate anything. That ship might be steered by great people, but they depend on you to sail with the winds and do it quickly. Stay the course!

3) You will block it all into a schedule. Best be on iCal, Asana, and/or whatever your favorite taskmaster tool is. You will not remember it all – commit to this law of PR. Hint: morning time is the best creative time for your mind (based on a little science), but I like to think that this because the morning is generally before everyone rains on your day with their inquiries, maladies, and whatever else.

4) You will sugar it with all your fun new platforms, devices, events, and other trendy communications phenomena. But, worry more about getting the job done, not how cool it is to use Snapchat if Snapchat won’t be the most useful. No matter what those thought leaders say😀, you and your team (+ a good consultant?) are the best judge at the end of the day. Right? If you answered no, I am worried for you.

5) You’re willing to see some things fail and succeed surprisingly, and you will be okay with it.

If you do it all right, think of all the fun PR buzz terms you can use to describe yourself, like “content marketer” or “social media evangelist!” *DISCLAIMER: Please don’t use these terms. They are but one part of what you probably do and are generally limiting.

So get to it, Monday’s here. 

The Fall of the Traditional Telephone

Phones, like any other medium we use to communicate, are a form of social media. In fact, any time we communicate to each other than face-to-face, that is… (say it with me)… social media.

Pen and paper, the public writing walls in Pompeii, the Gutenberg press, Elizabethan aristocratic poetry, Morse code and telegraphs, and even that pesky morning newspaper that once hit your front door but now lives in an app…. all forms of social media. I highly recommend Tom Standage’s book Writing on the Wall, available at your local, independent bookseller – it dives a bit deeper into the history of social media in very insightful ways.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Reading-the-Writing-on-Pompeiis-Walls.html

Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. From The Art Archive / Alamy, via an article by The Smithsonian’s writer Kristin Ohlsonon.

Modern telecommunication services like Skype, FaceTime, Google-Hangouts, and those cheap cable phones (VoIP) are the best examples of how much we have revolutionized our communications. We can type and speak to each other at the same time, and even see each other – or all three! Long-distance calls are cheap and three-way calling is a synch with VoIP phones. However, all of these sources rely on several vital resources: power lines, cable lines, and/or wireless routers and voice/data centers.

How??? What.

That’s right, your Grandma’s phone didn’t need a cable line, just a phone line. The mechanism powering her phone is simple, just a couple copper lines controlled by the phone company’s circuit board that connected her to who she called with a voice-to-electric-signal conversion technology created by Alexander Graham Bell. Our contemporary dependencies, fueled by the cable company (some of these companies were once just phone companies, remember?), make our life easier… but not if the power is out.

An analog phone.

An analog phone.

When the power does go out, like as a result of a major disaster, that old analog phone line still works (permitted the buried, copper cables didn’t break, an unlikely occurrence anway). You can still make calls!

But, with a VoIP connected phone, you have to depend on two things both working: power (to charge the phone) and the cable line (to supply the call service). These are two things that are unlikely to hold up during a major disaster.

And that iPhone? That will not last you more than the end of a day. The voice and data towers could be destroyed, too. Or your phone will just die.

But the FCC likes you.

They do. They want to make sure that by 2018, we are all connected to and reliant upon the VoIP network, a cable network that allows calls and other data across internet lines. The old telephone system will be completely removed, says the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

Wireless phones will still exist, and you should learn hoFCC Logow to tweet via SMS in order to broadcast your emergency request in times of limited data, or just learn what SMS is and how to use it. Understand, however, that wireless phones require batteries that must be charged, typically by an A/C outlet, and those will be scarce in a major disaster and/or loss of power. The towers may also be damaged, disallowing any connectivity.

What should I do?

Hang on to that old telephone company line if you still have it. Chances are you cannot get it as a new service – most companies do not offer it anymore. If you know of any, please respond in the comments below!

Here are some other tech-savvy ideas to keep you connected:

  1. Read my last post about using Twitter via SMS during an emergency, for starters, and heed the advice. Install other social media apps onto your wireless device if it allowed (Android and iPhone users can). Facebook is especially helpful because the people you will be broadcasting your message to are your friends and family, also known as people who probably actually care about your well-being.
  2. Consider a battery back-up option for your home phone. A recent call with Time Warner Cable said, however, that many of their telephone modems do not allow a battery back-up anymore. This is an important question to ask your cable company!
  3. Keep a pencil, pen, notepad, and tape in your home’s emergency kit. You may need to tape a note to your door letting people you are okay and to meet somewhere at a certain time, for example. You may also want to write down directions to the nearest shelter. The American Red Cross apps are fantastic at finding shelters and giving you information about what to do, either before, during, or after a disaster, by the way.
  4. Get a NOAA weather radio. Seriously though. It may be your only source of information during a major disaster.

There are many more concepts to explore. For further reading, consult the FCC website on “Emergency Communications.”  FEMA also has an excellent blog post about this too with far more detailed tips. I look forward to comments too, as always!

Face It: Content is Bling

Flash it, flaunt it… make them want it. This is not your grandmother’s book club anymore. These days, you need to bring more the table than just finely weathered copy. Your content arsenal needs to be diverse.

I will not tell you everything, but I will tell you something – social media contains the word “media”, so get crackin’:

1. What are your music skills like? Check out this clip I composed, perfect for providing a soundtrack or editing as a ringtone:

2. What about video? Check out what I did for an arts blog at the company called THE TWEET SQUAD

3. Have you thought about what a photo can contain? Wait, just think “image file” instead of photo. That should help.

Fake GAP Promotion.

Fake GAP Promotion.

I hope this helped charge your thoughts about what content can all contain. Comment below – what types of content have you used and what brands do you follow who have great content?

Other types of content:

  • Cartoons
  • Word clouds
  • Educational Guides
  • Vine App videos
  • QR codes

What else can you think of?

4-Step Cartoon: What Social Platforms Should my Brand use?

Cartoon by Jason E. Ballmann

Overloaded with information? Don’t know where to turn?

Deciding what platform to use for your brand can be daunting. Consider the following:

1) What is my brand best at? Short, concise messages (Twitter)? Describing why you need an item? (Facebook) Flashy colors and unique design (Pinterest/Facebook/Tumblr)?

2) What resources do I have? Can I produce content easily and efficiently? Aka, is it worth the investment?

3) Do I understand the style of each platform well enough to create content for it? Or should I hire this platform out?

4) Is this a platform that my traditional audience will enjoy, or am I trying to reach a new audience, or both?

What else do you think is important when selecting a social platform for a brand?

Resolutions 2013: Who are You Online?

We think of the New Year as a renewal of ourselves, a time to lose that “winter fluff”, make amends with a bitter aunt, or maybe start a meditative/yoga session at that studio next to the donut shop.

But now, in this millennium, we have a totally different concern: our digital profile. This is not just about your Facebook photo, or how to write that perfect tweet, but rather, this is about updating, editing, and improving your entire digital lifestyle.

Why? Because we’re moving fast and in all directions. Perplexed by your sprinkler system’s digital control panel? What is this “wave and pay” function in credit cards? What is a tablet?

You can do this! Here are some tips:

220px-Stick_Figure.svg

1) Gain more Twitter and Pinterest followers by:

  • Defining why you are on Twitter/Pinterest, develop a contextual reason
  • Tweeting/pinning content that fits this contextual reason
  • Showing that you are human, don’t be an autoscheduled platform
  • Read and reply to your friends’ tweets and pins! Show them you care.
  • Uploading a picture of YOU that is clean and clear

*You may start this away from the screen by writing down 5 things you like really talking about in real life, then going from there.

2) Clean up and Perfect your LinkedIn Profile/About Me Bios

  • We really do want to know what you do in your real life, as well as current and future employers.
  • Don’t forget to post updates that are professional, and join Linkedin Groups
  • Write a short biography, no more than 200 characters. Don’t wax on.

3) Facebook

  • Go through all those old albums. Really. You’ll find some to be… atrocious.
  • Change your privacy settings. People who are not your friends should really only be able to see your profile picture and maybe where you work or went to school.
  • Unfriend the people who you really aren’t friends with – hate breeds hate, and meaningless connections are meaningless.
  • Can you like Facebook pages you actually care about and unlike the unnecessary ones?

4) Sign up for Twitter via SMS

For emergencies or easier tweeting, do this. You can reach a broad audience if you need help by using just your phone’s text messaging and without having to open the Twitter app! Read more here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/14014-twitter-via-sms-faq#

5) Create a Spotify account

  • Find some new music and listen to artists you’ve never heard of
  • Connect with your friends/Facebook and see what everyone’s listening to
  • Sign-up for the premium service to avoid ads, just $10/mo

spotify-logo

I hope you take this into consideration. Your digital lifestyle will greatly improve, and you will find much more happiness online!