Social Media Communication Around Isaias Offers Vital Information

By: Seth Arenstein

August 5, 2020

The federal government and social media are targets of discontent. Just yesterday, we ran a post extolling 100 large companies. In it, one person argued these companies did more to keep the country going during the pandemic than the federal government. To blast social media, you need just two words: hate and speech. Yet the benefits of government and social media shine, often when the sun does not. During bad weather events, for example. In that way, government and social media are akin to crisis preparation. You hate to invest resources in it, but when an emergency hits, you’re glad you did. Similar to insurance.

Fortunately, Hurricane Isaias failed to do as much damage as predicted. Downgraded to a tropical storm Tuesday, it still claimed at least 8 lives and has left some 4 million Americans without power today along the East Coast. The Category 1 hurricane made landfall Monday night near Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.. It missed Florida. Still, with winds of 65 mph, it did a number on several states, including New York and New Jersey. As of 5 a.m. ET today, it was en route to Canada with winds at 40 mph, a tropical cyclone. It is expected to dissipate over Canada tomorrow.

Isaias could not have come at a worse time for communicators. News about the pandemic and the elections are overwhelming Americans. The volume and speed of news are major annoyances, a Gallup/Knight study released yesterday says. The mix of news and non-news online, including social media, is the most cited reason (72 percent) for the overload. The study of 20,000 Americans says one result is that nearly 20 percent of people stop paying attention to the news.

Still, plenty of people continue to follow news on social media. That’s why several government departments, federal and state, communicated Isaias news, almost constantly, via social, during the weekend and continuing through today. The National Hurricane Center post below is particularly useful

Some of the most important aspects of bad weather communication include convincing people to take shelter. Since several spots in the country are prone to storms, some residents are veteran storm survivors. It’s hard to convince them to take shelter.

The post below shows how official info combined with a private citizen’s insight can alert people to know what’s coming. Mike Seidel, the longtime Weather Channel meteorologist, also was on duty throughout the weekend, providing input for viewers (see below post).

Few but avid weather watchers take advantage of the country’s impressive satellite fleet maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The unit, which owing to a bureaucratic quirk, is under the purview of the Commerce Department, and maintains a terrific Twitter feed. When bad weather is on the horizon, there are few better information sources. Look at the post below, which shows Isaias progressing up from the Atlantic.

A more accessible look at NOAA satellite data is available from the feed its public affairs office maintains. Notice how the post informs visitors to get more updates from the National Hurricane Center’s site.

Lord knows, it’s not pleasant to lack power. Yet knowing that those who can help are aware of your situation is slightly more comforting. Props to for spreading the word with the below post.

The office of Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey gets special props for conducting a master class in effective social media communication during Isaias. His almost non-stop retweets and tweets provided a bevy of useful information from New Jersey departments, such as the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Department of Health. The governor’s briefing also streamed live online, ensuring those without power could watch the session via mobile.

And a large bravo to volunteer groups like Crisis Cleanup, which posted quickly that its members were ready to help. Importantly, many of the institutions also offered their information in Spanish.

Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS and Crisis Insider

At The Social Shake-Up