Where Canadians turn to for information in an emergency… Web moves ahead of Newspapers, still behind TV and radio

posted by Brendan Hodgson

I speak often to companies about the role of digital technology and social media on contemporary crisis communications. It is a fascinating topic — not only for the issues that it introduces, but also because it requires the integration of a number of operational functions within organizations themselves, not simply communications.

That said, one of the key challenges in convincing companies to re-think their crisis response programs to reflect this new digital dynamic, is providing solid evidence that the web has become an increasingly vital conduit to communicating directly with stakeholders in times of crisis. In my view, the usual national penetration numbers don’t cut it.

So I was glad to find out that the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness (CCEP) has just released the first in a series of annual national survey-based studies, entitled: Preparing for Crises: Findings and Implications from the National Survey on Emergency Preparedness in Canada.

Of the issues explored in the survey, the most interesting, in my mind,related to the information sources that respondents said they would turn to during an emergency. As Randy Hull, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the City of Winnipeg, notes in his foreward:

With regards to where public seek their information, I am reassured by the survey findings that TV, radio and Internet, are the most effective channels for reaching the public.The interesting number is that of Internet use, as it continues to increase. It will be of interest to see if this number surpasses the conventional media of radio and TV. Here in Winnipeg we created an extensive web site called EmergWeb, to assist people in their information search. This direction was taken based on 1997 flood data showing that 45% of people called, while the other 55% visited Winnipeg’s web page

Among its recommendations, the study authors noted specifically the following:

CCEP and governments might wish to focus more attention on the Internet, which displaced newspapers as the third most important source of emergency information. The emergence of the Internet calls for careful attention to public awareness of sites and public search practices. Data reported in table 6.2.1 in the Annex reveal that search engines and news sites are the main Internet avenues. The federal website, getprepared.ca, would receive essentially no direct traffic. From these findings, it follows that a priority should be for the federal government to ensure that search engines direct traffic to its site and that communications and advertising alert the public to the site’s presence

You can access the study here.

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