community Archive

The table is nearly set.

And you have a formal invitation to join us on 11/11/15 as we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the first use of the #SMEM hashtag (which stands for Social Media in Emergency Management).

Steve Jobs-quotes

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Your Responsibility

Posted in community

In recent weeks, Ive been working on drafting social media policies for several new organizations that I work or volunteer with. And while each organization uses social media differently, one common thread has been evident in each organizational training:

User Responsibility

While an organization can easily say here is how we will engage in social media, it is important to realize that your employees, your volunteers and your social media administrators will all contribute to your agencys reputation in the social space.

But you cannot assume that all of your employees or volunteers understand how to most appropriately engage in social media. This is why training and orientation to your social media policy is of serious importance.

Here are some basic guidelines to consider:

  • Employees and Volunteers are responsible for their personal engagement and their privacy settings in social media. Not only should this be said out loud to employees and volunteers, but there are a couple of very specific recommendations that I make in this area. They include recommendations to:
    • Conduct the privacy review of your settings on Facebook every 3-6 months. Facebook is notorious for changing its privacy settings regularly and its important for you to be in touch with these changes as they occur.
    • You should look at your Facebook profile from the perspective of a non-friend. Are you exposing more than you wish to? Often people dont realize that both profile pictures and cover photos show up publicly on your timeline, including all of the comments of your friends. You can choose to hide each of these from your timeline so that no one on the outside can see these pictures.
    • Its also important to look at the timeline & tagging setting on Facebook. Did you know that Facebook employs facial recognition in pictures and will ask your friends to verify your identify in pictures? You want to turn this setting off. To do this, look under the Timeline and Tagging setting, look for the Who sees tag suggestions when photos are uploaded that look like you and turn that setting to no one
    • On Twitter and other platforms, dont be afraid to block or report spam-like accounts. How do you determine if an account looks spammy? If their Twitter handle seems convoluted, they have an egg-like profile picture or if their tweets are highly repetitive, feel free to block these accounts. You dont need to have spammy accounts following you, even if they share your content.
    • Employees should think twice before being friends on social media. This issue can be tricky because, often, people spend so much time with those that they work with that it seems natural to also follow each other on social media, right? The reality is that because you spend so much time together, you probably shouldnt follow each other on social media unless you truly are friends outside of work.

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Where is Waldo?

Posted in community

You may think that Ive disappeared from the #SMEM scene as of late, thanks to the lack of updates on this blog. However, that is not the case.

What is true is that Ive been busy working on a number of projects which have been just a little more behind the scenes, but now is a good time to resurface for a brief moment and chat about these endeavors.

  • New Job: As you may remember, I moved from the emergency management profession and into a 9-1-1 technology career. While still mystifying for some, the next huge phase in the 9-1-1 community is wrestling with the advent of Next Generation 9-1-1 which is essentially the incorporation of #SMEM directly into the public safety community. It is fun to be on the forefront of some of the planning conversations which will someday bring text, video and imagery right into the hands of future 9-1-1 dispatchers.
  • New Training Classes: Despite the new job, Ive also had the pleasure of being involved in the development of a new training course that is currently in the pilot stage for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, entitled Social Media Engagement Strategies. This class will have several pilots before seeking final course approval. The next pilot is on March 19th in Cincinnati, Ohio. And according to the NDPTC training website, there are still 8 seats left in the course, if youre lucky enough to be within a commutable distance. Pilot #1 occurred in Washington State in February and the feedback was very encouraging and positive. Intermediate Social Media Tools, taught by Kevin Sur, is also occurring the day before and has 5 seats left at this writing. For other pilot deliveries, keep an eye on the NDPTC site for future announcements.
  • New Association: For the past year, Ive been working with a number of #SMEM folks to create a professional association that wholly models and embodies the use of collaborative tools and technologies. With a vision to provide an umbrella to emerging technology initiatives and to solve age-old emergency management issues through truly incorporating a whole-community approach, it is an exciting initiative. And, at this juncture, weve seated a Board of Directors, adopted By-Laws and a Strategic Plan and are currently jumping through the hoops to be fully registered as an operational 501(c) organization. Our goal is to soft-launch this membership-based organization late summer 2015 and host our first in-person conference in 2016 or 2017. Much more to come on this very soon.

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Politics Social Media

Posted in community training

politicsYes, this blog has been quiet.

No, that doesnt mean Ive wandered away from social media.

For the past 2 months, Ive been living behind a Facebook Page alias and supporting a local political campaign.

And, if you really want to know what managing an emergency might feel like on social media, join a locally controversial political campaign. It can be difficult to simulate the amount of traffic, engagement and rumors when you are preparing to handle emergency events, but politics can provide an excellent microcosm of a crisis environment.

Some of the key things that you will learn are:

  • Coordinating messaging between different levels of a campaign can be tough. Everyone has an opinion and way of saying certain things. And unlike emergency response, which has a very defined chain of command, community organizations may not have a similar organizational structure.
  • Developing a battle rhythm across week and months, to build momentum, is very important. You are aiming to mobilize both volunteers and the action of people voting. A simple post every few days wont accomplish an engagement goal. You must be timely, relevant and connected the current events in order to grab someones attention. This requires very focused thinking and planning to ensure that people remain solidly engaged.
  • Different types of posts will garner different types of engagement. People will like pictures, but often wont comment on them unless they have a personal connection to the picture.
  • Controversy sparks conversation, but you have to be cautious about whether your base is open and welcoming enough to provide space for newcomers. If your goal is to get new people to vote, you have to be careful that you dont always have the same 10 people commenting on your posts, giving the appearance of a closed environment. It is okay to allow both positive and negative comments, but establish a decent take-down policy for what goes against how you define civil discourse.
  • You will become an expert at managing trolls. There will be people who do not care what you say or do in a political campaign. They will be opposed to your position and wont be changing their mind. They may also focus on spreading discontent on your campaign page. Usually trolls use two different tactics which include repetition, off-topic posts or good, old-fashioned name-calling. If you see this behavior, call it out (in the voice of the page) and delete the offending comment. People will choose either to self-moderate their own behaviors or will continue to behave in a similar manner. If your goal is to maintain open and civil discourse, it is vital that you decipher between people disagreeing over facts and those that are relying attacking the people involved. Most differences of opinion are just that and can be left on your page. Attacks, however, should be eliminated. Even in a controversial campaign, people will usually behave with warnings and as they observe the moderation / elimination of caustic comments.

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Engaging with Facebook

Posted in community

This past week, I had the opportunity to chat with a community group who wanted to learn more about how to spread its message on Facebook.

And, for most emergency situations, we dont ever worry about how to spread our messages because people actively crave information during times of crisis.

This means that good information about emergency responses spreads quickly, but how does one spread messages on Facebook when there isnt an active emergency? What about those public education campaigns about preparedness? Do you ever feel frustrated that your non-emergency messages arent seeming to get much traction?

Lets chat about a few ways to ensure that your messages will reach as many people as possible.

First and foremost, if you are administering a fan page on Facebook, spend some time building your Facebook community.

  • If you have employees or volunteers to your agency, ask them to follow your Facebook page. Be sure that those you work with most closely know that you are actively sharing key information on Facebook.
  • If you follow or like a Facebook page, spend a few minutes to invite your Facebook friends to also like the page. In the left hand side of any Facebook page, youll see an option that says Invite Your Friends to like this page

Then, as a follower of a page, there are 4 basic actions that you can take:

  1. You can like the posts of a page. This important because when you like content on Facebook, it will show up in the activity column that shows up on the right hand side of your desktop view of Facebook. Friends are often snoopy and may click on your actions to see what you are liking.
  2. You can comment on posts of the page. Comment also show up in both the news feeds and activity column, thus sharing your activity even broader than just liking content.
  3. You can click-through to the articles and links posted by the page. This is important because Facebook is actively calculating whether or not the links being shared by the page are interesting to its followers. Because Facebook is actively trying to weed out spam, it is looking for pages that getting likes, but may not be posting quality content.
  4. You can share posts by the page you are following. By sharing interesting posts to your friends, you broaden the reach of an initial post. When you click the share button, look at who you are sharing the content with. To the left of the cancel button on the share window, it may say Friends. Change this to public so that not only your friends see the content, but friends of friends see the content. This allows your posts to have a much broader reach than just your friends.

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Today, we sit on the eve of September 1st which is the 10th Year of..

National Preparedness Month!

This month is focused on getting people to think about and take action towards becoming better prepared.

For many emergency service organizations, event planning is underway for various community events, CERT trainings and open houses to put services and activities on display.

And although being prepared is EVERYONES RESPONSIBILITY, there are still just a handful of events that everyone can participate in through the avenue of social media.

They include.

  • 30 Days, 30 Ways which, started in Washington, provides a daily challenge and call-to-action. Players and observers are asked to consider taking one simple step per day to get them more ready for future crises that you may encounter. Not only will the tasks cause you to think, but you can win prizes and will meet others who are participating in preparing themselves as well. You can follow the game on Facebook at and on Twitter by following @30days_30ways or the hashtag #30days30ways
  • Emergency Kit Cook-off which, started in Arizona, provides a specialized set of shelf-stable ingredients which the public can vote on until midnight of 9/1/14. Players and observers are then challenged to make a great recipe involving the specific ingredients. This will creatively cause you to think about items you might be stuck cooking with if disaster were to strike in your local area. You can follow this challenge on Facebook at and on Twitter by following @kitcookoff or the hashtag #KitCookoff

The American Red Cross has some creative partnerships this year that are creative as well for National Preparedness Month. They include:

FEMA also has some helpful tools for local programs to honor National Preparedness Month.

  • Americas Prepareathon which aims to ask people to come together for a National Day of Action on September 30th. You can register your activities at this site.
  • FEMAs Digital Engagement Toolkit also provides emergency services programs with suggested preparedness messages to be used during September

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DC Tweetup?

Posted in community

About a week from now, a number of #SMEM folks will be converging on Washington D.C. to attend the White House Innovation for Disaster Response & Recovery Day on Tuesday, July 29th.

And, if youve ever met me, you know that I love to meet folks that Ive only chatted with on Twitter or other social media platforms. Because, while chatting over Twitter is great, its only the beginning of our potential friendship. There are connections, memories and just plain awesome things that happen when youre able to share a hug over your favorite beverage.

So, we cant let this opportunity go by without aiming to connect as many #SMEM folks as possible. If you are heading to Washington D.C. or you live close enough to visit us tourists, fill out the following form so that I can get a headcount of who all might be available to get together. Its also tremendously important for making restaurant reservations since group dining in D.C. can be a little bit tricky.

Once I have some reservations in place, Ill jet an email to everyone who has RSVPed. Of course, if you dont RSVP, you can likely catch up with us on Twitter on the 28th or 29th, but it might be standing room only for you.

Hope to see you there! If not, Im sure you can watch us all tweeting under whatever hashtag organically comes to be. I know Ill have #GirlInTheCity going and I suspect #WHsmem or something else will get cross-tweeted to the #SMEM tag so yall can join the fun from wherever you are.


Cheryl Bledsoe (@cherylble)

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You may have already read about my dream to start a whole new type of Emergency Management Association.

Yes, we have state-level associations (of which Ive served in leadership for several years).

Yes, we have national associations (both the International Association of Emergency Managers and the National Emergency Management Association).

But, its time to establish a Virtual Emergency Management Association which strives to model the use of truly collaborative technologies to solve emergency management problems.

Social media has leveled the playing field and offers everyone the opportunity to be part of the whole community solution..and yet, none of our current associations meets the challenge of providing a home to students, researchers, professionals, technology advocates, non-profits and volunteers. If we are truly all in this together, we need to expand the discussions, think outside the box and identify areas of collaboration and progress that to-date have not largely been tapped.

Its time to turn the tables on traditional emergency management.

Emergencies are everyones problems, and emergencies need everyone to properly prepare, respond and recover.

When I initially put out the call for people to help, I was tremendously humbled by the 66 people that stepped forward and joined me in this endeavor. And thanks to several operational committees, were on the cusp of formalizing this organization.

This Friday, July 11th, there will be a 60-90 minute conference call at 11:00 a.m. PDT / 2:00 p.m. EDT that you are welcome to join.

The agenda for this call is located at this link >

Sound like fun?

Join us!

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Website Messages

Posted in community

Websites say a lot about your agency.

Whether you are a private sector company or a public entity, your web presence can say positive things like we know our key messages and what we offer to others or they can stand as confused, multi-message, full of information sites that say virtually nothing at all.

Now, before I go any further, Im going to be working on in the very near future so that it is cleaner and more exciting, but first things first, let me share and then remind myself to get to work. And, truth be told, Ive been working recently on a couple of other web design projects that you should see soon.

I attended a class recently that encouraged students to consider who our website audience is. And the first lesson is CANNOT BE EVERYONE. Now, as a public servant, I had a hard time with this lesson because of course, we serve everyone, right?

While this is true, not everyone clicks on our websites. And its important to consider who is visiting your site.

In fact, there are two things that you need to know as you evaluate your website.

  1. Who is visiting your website?.. AND
  2. What is their journey? Where are your website visitors going when they visit your website.

If you know where your visitors are going, you can be sure that the information you need to share is more accessible and easy to reach.

Of equal importance is your ask of your website visitors..what are you TRULY asking them to do to engage with your agency?

Many websites miss this altogether. They offer information, often copious amounts of information, and never direct people to take any action.

The types of asks you could be making include.

  • Signing up for regular newsletters,
  • Signing up for emergency alerts or updates,
  • Connecting on other social platforms,
  • Volunteering, or
  • Any other action which would help your agency.

If you are not asking your website visitors to take action, you may never see them again on your site or in person.

We often have a tendency to put way too much information on websites, as public agencies. Dont be afraid to minimize the information and clarify your call to action. Be sure that the information actually on your website is useful and working for you. Because, if you visitors cant find the information because its buried among 50 million other messages, it isnt working for you.

You must walk through your website as if you were an outsider to your agency. If you feel like you have too much information on your site, you probably do. Combing through websites to reduce information is something you (and I) should do regularly.

If you work in an agency with a website, take time today to truly evaluate how useful it is from your residents perspective.

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Your Tiny Image

Posted in community

If you have any social media accounts, you hopefully have heard the word avatar or thumbnail image. These are the tiny images that serve as your profile pictures.

And while I usually talk to agencies on this blog, today, Im going to talk about us all as individuals.

Because, if you are representing an agency, your avatar should be pretty easy.

Most likely, you use the logo from the business you represent. The only question for your business is whether people can rapidly identify your logo at its 150150 size.

If your agency logo is too busy or only looks great on a large poster, its time to revisit and ask yourself what does this logo say to the masses at this extremely reduced size?

This is an important question for many emergency management agencies because frankly, we have logos that are WAY TOO BUSY. Many try to incorporate words like emergency management or the 4 cycles of emergency management and no one really gets it. Lets be honest, most average people still dont know what our whole profession does, right? This becomes a much bigger branding problem that anyone is willing to talk about.

But I dont want to engage that conversation fully tonight..lets talk about ourselves as individuals.

As much as I love to rat out boring in government, many of us in social media also need a makeover.

Your profile picture is todays business card and it speaks volumes about you.

The messages I often see are..

  • I am brand new to social media (because I still use the egg picture as my avatar)
  • Im going to watch you, but I dont trust you enough to let you see me (via my use of clip art avatars or non-facial pictures)
  • I prefer to lurk (because I use dark avatars that dont reveal anything about me)
  • I may lack confidence in being seen (as often evidenced by avatars of my pets)
  • Im creative (because I figured out how to make a cartoon like avatar that actually does look like me)

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