Timeliness is Next to Godliness

Two questions:

First, how long did it take–from conception to “Send”–did it take to get your last press release out?

Second, how long did it take for a major situation to go from unknown to all over the news? (For an example, think of the Chris Christie bridge scandal or the Elk River, WV chemical spill.)

If those two timeframes are close to each other. Even within a few hours, that’s not bad. I’m guessing, though, that for most of us, there is quite a difference.

And that difference is of critical importance, as demonstrated by a survey by the American Red Cross from a few years back:

red cross

This chart is examining how long the public expects for help to arrive (that’s you, responding government agency), after a call for help has been posted online. Unfortunately, folks still haven’t taken this reality (and I imagine it’s only gotten worse since this was published in 2011) seriously:

Most 140-character tweets issued by the department are planned weeks in advance; edited by dozens of public servants; reviewed and revised by the minister’s staff; and sanitized through a 12-step protocol, the documents indicate.

That quote is taken from this National Post article on how Industry Canada doesn’t quite get social media.

An insider at Industry Canada said the “super-rigid process” is frustrating, and simply doesn’t work for Twitter.

He said he’s seen proposed light-hearted tweets killed at birth because they don’t fit the template.

“What’s our problem with being lighthearted? Why do we have to be super-serious and boring, and dry all the time?”

Hey, where have I heard that before? Oh, that’s right, I’m the one that rails against government automaton speak. The National Post asked for a comment from Industry Comment and what they got back, well, it kind of confirmed the whole deal:

“Industry Canada follows the Treasury Board Standard on Social Media Account Management, which aims to provide a strategic and coherent approach for the management of departmental social media accounts,” said the email from Michel Cimpaye of media relations.

“This Standard supports Canada’s commitment to open government and enables accuracy, greater information sharing, public dialogue and collaboration.”

My point is this: whether or not we want them to, the public has developed an expectation of how social media works. It’s an expectation that’s been set by private companies that live and breathe off of their social media interactions, by friends and family that love to chat, by a couple government agencies and actors that really get social media. We can do one of two things in response to this new normal: either quit altogether or embrace it. Because half-assing it doesn’t serve you (especially in an emergency) nor the public (who will quickly forget about you).

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