Storm Preparedness Communications in Social Media

City of New Orleans LinksNew Orleans is bracing itself for Hurricane Isaac, just upgraded from a "Tropical Storm" and sadly reminiscent of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. Local authorities generally are doing a good job of keeping residents informed through social media.

The city has an updated website with easy-to-understand links on the left side. However, these might be improved with parallel phrasing and more consideration to the order. Is "Past Emergency News" the most important, implied by its top position? At this point-when the storm is quickly approaching-maybe "Leaving Town" is most important?*

On Twitter, the city's preparedness team and mayor use the same "NOLA Ready" logo, which connects the feeds nicely. Both are tweeting regularly with updated information and responses to questions and concerns. Here is a sampling of recent tweets from the mayor's feed:

City of New Orleans MayorTwitter












Although the mayor's tweets are timely and seem relevant, some criticize the tone. One media trainer suggests a more personal tone to emphasize the city's focus on keeping people safe. Another communications expert calls the NOLA website "too politically correct," and says, "It seems more about the local politicians than an emergency service for residents."

Social media is sure to have a front-and-center role as Isaac moves closer.

* Update: After I tweeted about the ill-conceived order, NOLA changed its website links, now leading with "Emergency Updates," with instructions for signing up for notifications from the site. This wouldn't have been my choice, but it's better than referring to past emergencies.

Discussion Starters:

  • Read recent tweets on the city's preparedness feed. Which tweets are most and least effective?
  • What improvements could you make to the city's website? What information is most important to people expecting a hurricane?