Archive for January 23rd, 2009

Entering the new age of virtual response

January 23, 2009

It seems that this one idea whose time has about finally come. It was identified at the Booz Allen Hamilton conference last November as one of the important emerging trends in risk and crisis communications. What is virtual response? It simply means that the idea of a response team including communicators coming together in a physical location to do their work of crisis communicaiton is no longer tenable. Actually hasn’t been for some time because we have been in the era of instant news for going on a decade now. But most in crisis communication and emergency management are continuing to fight today’s battles with yesterday’s thinking and technologies. Does the idea of a Gatling gun in the Civil War ring anyone’s bell?

Twitter is one example of both instant news and instant response. Problem is, it is a one man band. It’s great if you are the one completely in charge and have full authority to say whatever you want about what is going on. Tweet away. But most people I know in crisis communication perform as part of a team, and how do you harness Twitter to a team?

I’ve been dealing with this topic of virtual response since 1999 when I first was thown headlong into the world of mass scale crisis communication and instant news with the Olympic Pipeline disaster. My baptism by fire you might say. That’s where the idea of virtual response and particularly a Virtual Joint Information Center capability started. Since then a great many organizations have adopted it and it has been proven in numerous incidents in the last few years–kind of starting with the G8 Summit of June 2004 in Georgia.

But while progressive organizations like the Coast Guard, BP and LA Dept of Water and Power have experienced the benefits of virtual response, most in this business still respond to the idea with “hunh?”I guess that is the challenge ahead. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.