Life-saving social media

Talk to tackle importance of connectivity

Public Relations Instructor Mary Beth Reese’s friend was in Nepal when the earthquake hit last April.

Reese asked herself, “Is she OK? How do we connect with her?” as she saw graphic pictures of the earthquake’s effects on the news.

A company in Nepal allowed people to charge their cell phones and eventually her friend was able to use social media to reach out to her friends and family in the U.S. and they could get messages back to her.

The College of Liberal Arts  and Communications Department will host “Social Media: Your Crisis Lifeline” at 7 p.m. Monday  in Carter Hall.

The symposium will center around the role social media plays in a crisis and how people should use it.

Kristen Nordlund, health communication specialist for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at the University of Georgia, will speak during the event.

“We read about crisis, but do we really know how to handle it?” Reese said.. “Do we know how to communicate with the various publics, including journalists? And how do we make sure messages are accurate, timely and presented in a manner that can be understood by all the public?”

Crisis communications is valuable in every industry, Reese said. She hopes  the audience will leave with more knowledge about communications.

Social media is instant and there are a variety of platforms companies can use, Reese said.

“I think if it’s used well, it can communicate information that individuals are seeking,” she said.

The concern with social media is misinformation and hearsay that comes from anyone being able to post about anything, Reese said.

“They will discuss (at the symposium) how critical it is to manage information flow and to make sure that it is accurate information so that consumers are making good choices,” she said.

Nordlund and Nowak’s presentation will be an updated version of the Public Relations Society of America’s webinar, which Reese’s students watched in her crisis communications class.

That class, along with tragedy and the media, a journalism course, were involved in the Homeland Security’s branch City of Evansville/Vanderburgh Emergency Management Agency’s local earthquake drill last spring.

The students practiced writing key messages the agency would send out during an actual earthquake, Reese said. Three students even worked on social media.

One of the students who participated in the drill, Jenna Deisher, said it made her realize how important social media could be in that type of situation because it localized the idea of emergencies.

“We’re not just talking about a virus in Brazil or an earthquake in Nepal,” the senior public relations major said. “We’re talking about something that could happen here in Evansville and how we would prepare for it.”

Deisher, who is part of the student committee behind the symposium, said she looks forward to meeting one of the people she heard about in class face to face.

“There are constantly new disasters…  new pressing situations happening all the time all over the world,” she said, “and it’s just so important that we know how to prepare ourselves and communicate in those situations.”

Fast Facts

Time: 7 p.m. Monday

Location: Carter Hall

Cost: Free