One of the areas that I am active in both research and consulting is in crisis communications with new emerging technology, and so it is interesting to see how various forms of technologies are being implemented in communicating, sharing, and disseminating information in a crisis situation.  From providing updates via social networking sites like Facebook and tweets through Twitter to webcasting press conferences and interviews via YouTube and other video sharing websites. It was just announced this past week that Homeland Security is going to be issuing terror warnings via Facebook and Twitter starting near the end of the month of April.

Integrating social media into crisis communications is fundamental – crisis communication professionals do not necessarily need to re-create a complete and totally new crisis plan.  Some of the same practices still apply, however, it is key to understand what are the uses of these new technologies, the benefits and challenges of using them, and how they can be strategically applied and used before, during, and after a crisis.  Being able to monitor these conversations through various social media monitoring sites to set up benchmarks throughout a campaign / crisis  and applications is essential in detecting early warning signs, current trends and issues that need to be immediately addressed, listening to what the media and others are saying, and making sure that there are no false rumors spreading online through social media during the crisis.  Many case studies have focused on these various points – some have done exceptionally well in handling the crisis with social media (CDC & H1N1) while others have not been as successful.

While sharing these warnings, messages, and updates through sites like Facebook and Twitter are interesting – what about the impact of using QR codes in sharing this information as well?  The Google Crisis Response Center Page displayed a QR Code with information for the US Embassy, which is an example of how this is becoming more of a trend that crisis communication professionals need to be aware of and consider as an option in how to disseminate and share this information through mobile technology.  Here are a few ideas that would be interesting for implementing QR Codes into a crisis communications plan:

  • Creating QR Codes with these warnings that can be displayed publicly at various places: Allowing people to scan these codes with the necessary information that they need to reduce their levels of uncertainty and where they can go for further information is key.  Some places that might be useful to incorporate these would be electronic displays and billboards to name a few.
  • Educate and formulate strategies in how to use these QR codes and when to implement them: Discuss the current awareness of the technology with team members as well as audiences to gauge whether or not this would be an appropriate application to use.  Create workshops and training seminars to test these messages and conduct education seminars on what are QR codes, how to use them, and brainstorm other ways to incorporate them into communication and PR practices.
  • Embed simple, concise, and direct messages for QR Codes: There is only so much information you can present in QR Codes, and people want to have the information that they need immediately and relevant to the specific crisis situation.
  • Discuss what information will be presented in the QR Code: Will it be SMS or Links to a website?  What about action steps that can be conceptualized in only a few characters?  These are just some of the elements to consider along with the fact that if you want to embed the option for people to share via Facebook or tweet this information to their friends, followers, and others in their online community.
  • Determine how to measure and evaluate the use of QR Codes in crisis situation: Discuss how the team involved in the crisis will monitor and evaluate the success of implementing this application into crisis communication message.  Interviews, metrics via social media, hits, surveys, and feedback from users would be some examples of how to evaluate the use and implementation of QR codes in a crisis.
  • Integrate tracking via QR Codes: Creating a QR code for each member of the team as well as impacted audiences in a specific location may also be an option to consider in various situations.

In summary, people are getting their information on the go and want it immediately and easily available with a touch of a button.  QR codes provide an option to provide individuals with information about these crisis warnings immediately while allowing them to have the power to share this information with others (ex. family, friends, followers, etc).  Technology continues to evolve and change, and it is the job of the crisis communication professional to keep up with it – we need to make sure that we are reaching our audiences in the most effective manner in a crisis while integrating new emerging applications and platforms into current crisis communication message strategies and tactics.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,