This week’s rain reminded me of one of the days (one of the many, many days) spent in incident mode at the Environment Agency. During one of the wettest years on record, rain didn’t just mean an unpleasant journey to work or being stuck inside; the question ‘what are you doing at the weekend?’ was really a polite way of asking which shift you wanted to be put down for!
The pdf below shows a day in the life of the @envagencymids Twitter account during full-on flooding, with my training notes attached. After several months of weekend shifts, we were desperately trying to maximise the number of people we could call on to help manage our social media accounts. This document formed part of the training.
The day in question, 25 November, saw a peak of 156 flood warnings in place, problems with a new flood defence at Kempsey, and despite being a Sunday was an incredibly busy working day.
My top tips for managing twitter during an incident based on just a little bit of practice are:
Start early with a clear summary of the latest situation – @envagencymids most popular tweets were sent around 6am, they were then widely shared by the twitter accounts of local, regional and national news as well as many individuals.
Create lists of official partner accounts so that anyone managing your accounts can easily see who to retweet and name check – when you look after an account regularly you get to know that @wmerciapolice cover Herefordshire but you don’t want to be trying to find that out in an emergency situation.
Don’t be afraid to publicly ask for retweets from partners, since the riots in 2011, police forces tend to have by far the most followers of public sector organisations in an area, and as long as it’s relevant they will happily share your messages.
Don’t be afraid to repeat key messages, people don’t mind a regular prompt to check their flood risk, and a link to how to prepare. If you manage an account you will be looking at twitter all day, most ‘normal’ people don’t, so will miss a percentage of what you put out. They might be seeing that key message for the first time, even if it’s the third time you’ve mentioned it that day.
Try to reply to all tweets even if it’s just to acknowledge them, people like to know there is a human being behind the account they can interact with, particularly if they are worried about their own home or area.
Sign off at the end of the day (whatever time that may be). @envagencymids had some really nice responses to bed time tweets, lots of thanks and compliments, and also stopped worries about people expecting responses in the middle of the night. @Londonmidland never fail to do this as well.
Now , where’s my umbrella…
By Claire Turner @clairet18