Iowa Governmental Agencies Learn Social Media Strategy to Improve Communication

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DES MOINES, Iowa- During times of severe weather, or other major incident the public is always looking for information.

At the Polk County Emergency Management Center a training session was held to help government agencies and non-profits use social media to get their story out.

In September when flood waters were rising in Northeast Iowa Floyd County authorities used Facebook live to broadcast their news conferences.

“If we did it 3 o'clock press conference people didn't have to wait to 5, 6 or 10 pm to hear the news, they had it immediately,” said Justin DeVore, who served as the public information officer for the County during the incident. “During the Facebook live event we would turn around say OK these are the questions we are getting in our community, we can answer them right now.”

Social media also can be used in situations to counter false or misleading information. That happened in Warren County after a fatal car accident on Highway 65.

“We were trying to correct that information to get the correct information out,” said Troy Bass, who is the Warren County Emergency Management Coordinator.

The training was done through the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“What we want people to be able to do is to manage their time be aware of social media channels available to them,” said John Bobel one of the trainers, who heads public information for Lexington KY. “To use social media to get out information on preparedness and response recovery and that information can be life-saving during critical times.”

Organizations were encouraged to look for ways to make their training more engaging, by posting information on what is going on at various agencies.

Also the training covered Twitter hashtags to help search for information, and using a hashtag to enable more people to see tweets.