It is widely recognized that Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeastern part of the country. As the social media world boomed during the week the storm hit, many fake images, posts and tweets surfaced across the country. As the storm receded, lessons were learned on how social media and digital outlets can be used accurately and efficiently during an emergency such as Sandy. In the December issue of PRSA Tactics, Jon Silver explains five lessons digital communication users can utilize.

Hurricane Communication

1. Get up and running. Many digital sites such as BuzzfeedGawker and The Huffington Post were searching for an alternative outreach after their internet provider went down. These sites then adapted   their routines to social media sites. Silver explains, “All three sites showed dedication to getting news out by any means available, and were transparent about how they did so.”

 2. Adopt community thinking. Newspapers like The New York Times offered their services to help others. Making storm coverage their top priority, The Times reported on power outages and other storm related updates. Other companies such as Airbnb reached out to the community by waving their fee for 20,000 locations.

3.Check your sources. Many fake images of Sandy were spread across social media such as Facebook. One user created an image of the storm, and later confessed it was fake, only after the image had been shared 300,000 times.

4. Don’t lie. As simple as this sounds, some Twitter users used the storm as an outlet to send misleading tweets.  Shashank Tripathi, a Hedge fund analyst and former congressional campaign consultant wrote fake tweets about Con Edison intentionally cutting all the power in Manhattan and the New York Stock Exchange being flooded.  Two days later Tripathi apologized for the inaccurate tweets, and resigned from his consultancy.

5. Simply communicate. Isn’t this what digital communication is about? Underestimating the power of the web, camera, and social channels during an emergency can reveal how many people rely on these types of communication.

Digital communication will continue to provide coverage of emergencies and event, accurate or not. If used for good, social media sites can aid the recoveries and relieve confusion.  Stay tuned…