Social media, specifically Twitter, can be a great information tool during a crisis, in more ways than one. You can keep up with developments, get information out quickly and stay in touch throughout a situation. However, with all that is going on in any given crisis, monitoring the air waves may not be top of mind. That is when having assistance – and not necessarily an assistant – comes in handy.
Recently, the Hutto Police Department was dealing with a situation where a homeowner had barricaded himself in his home. Police had blocked a major thoroughfare in our town, so everyone knew something was amiss. Because we collaborate well with the PD, we were aware and watching for a resolution. None of our campuses were in danger, but it’s always best to be safe. As a precaution, administration had campuses limit activity to indoor only and notified parents that some bus routes may be affected by road closures. Mindful that social media would be buzzing, but tasked with writing, calling and texting parents, I wasn’t at a point to monitor my social media feeds. That is, until a parent emailed me a screen shot of a tweet.
The tweet, sent by a user I’d never seen, mentioned “may be my last tweets” “lockdown” and “serious.” The parent even ran down the previous tweets and let me know this person was subbing in our district that day. The police situation was resolved shortly after I received the email, all was well and our students went home safe. But the tweet bothered me enough to look up the user, check the times and figure out the situation. From it all, I learned some critical lessons:
- Build your troops. Without the email from this parent, I wouldn’t have caught this tweet. I have built close relationships with many parents (in person and on social media), so it was quickly brought to my attention. Make sure parents know how to inform you and that they feel comfortable doing so. Be sure you have developed the relationships that will allow them to assist you.
- Make sure your staff is on board. If your staff sees anything on social media, they should inform you as well. A quick email with a link, screen shot or details can help you get a hold of a potential social media disaster. Your staff can be built in assistants.
- Get out the necessary info. In a crisis, if you aren’t informing your staff members of what is going on, they are going to make assumptions and they may post their assumptions on social media. And don’t forget front office staff, subs and coaches. Give them relevant details they need to know and what they should tell parents who call, tweet and post. Let them assist you.
- Discuss the best information to share. It is never too early to have a conversation with your staff about the importance of what they tweet, post or share during a situation. Their safety, students’ safety or the sanity of a parent may depend on it. Remind them that vague and misleading information only serves to scare parents and make the situation that much more difficult to handle. Instruct them not to send cryptic tweets like this sub did, because the district has a protocol for when and how to notify parents and you will follow it.
- After action, after action, after action. As in any situation, be sure you follow up after the event to monitor residual effects that might have arisen. Consider it an after-action debrief.