Case Study: US Navy in Hawaii Uses Social Media During #hitsunami

Pacific Fleet logoAs a direct result of the U.S. Navy’s outreach to bloggers here in Hawaii, I have been fortunate to both participate in some outstanding programs (like an overnight embark on the USS Nimitz) and also developed enormous respect for their adoption of social media (video interview) and their orderly and standardized approach. They are among the best examples of what I often wish for: more grown-ups using social media to get the job done! I mention them frequently in my talks to business, as I did earlier yesterday to business customers at Hawaiian Telecom University.

Last night we held our monthly meeting of the Hawaii chapter of the Social Media Club (yours truly is the founder.) Our topic was Social Media, Tsunamis, and Crisis Management; lots of good links in the comments there too. Judi Clark live-blogged this event; you can read her summary here. Geophysicist Brian Shiro of the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center joined us to share the back story and help us fact check. View informational slides that Brian prepared here.

I had reached out to Chuck Bell, Emerging Media Director of the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet based here in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor; he was unable to attend in person but sent me this thorough report via email. I am sharing it here as it really is a step-by-step example of how this works – written in plain speak and bullet points = music to my ears! I have bolded a few things that really stand out to me as best practices and best case scenarios.

Please leave your comments and kudos for Chuck and the US Navy in the comments below and on Twitter: @PacificFleet.

It was a given that social media was going to be a primary means of communication. Adm. Patrick Walsh, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s commander, emphasized early on in the crisis that our efforts via social media were critical in communicating with our wider Navy family. While we in public affairs realize this instinctively, we are fortunate to have senior leadership that embraces the use of social media as a key means of communicating with our various audiences.

Here are the actions we took:
— I immediately monitored my Facebook news feed, which includes extensive likes of Navy commands, and my Pacific military Twitter lists, for announcements and advisories from Navy commands in Japan.

— I reposted each advisory on our Facebook page with attribution and by tagging the Facebook page from which the information came.

— The Navy is much more active on Facebook than in Twitter, so I tweeted everything I was re-posting on Facebook, for the most part.

At critical points during the crisis, such as the decision to have the ships remain in Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet PAO provided very specific verbiage for use on both Facebook and Twitter.

— As we began receiving questions that I couldn’t answer, especially those of an operational nature (no visibility on those types of decisions from my den at home), I immediately emailed them to the Pacific Fleet PAO and our PAO in the operations center. I would have answers back within minutes and was able to quickly respond to comments and concerns.

We quickly had a “database” of answers to respond to questions, as many were similar.

We addressed every question that was posted on our wall, often within minutes, and tried our best to keep a close eye on comments in our posts to quickly address any issues there.

24/7 monitoring of our social media presence continued for three days.

— Given the ongoing relief effort in Japan that our Sailors are supporting, we are continuing to monitor our social media presence very closely, with truly, only a few hours during the day when there is not eyeballs on it from this office.

Biggest take away: Not only did the social media channels offer a way to immediately share critical information, but the interactive nature of it and our ability to answer questions and concerns immediately, appeared to provide reassurance in particular to the family members of our Sailors.

Thanks Chuck for being part of the conversation and for making it look so easy.