Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Social Media Counter-Propaganda – You Need An Insider



I was deployed as a Public Affairs Officer from 22 to 28 December 2018  to help support the Red Cross Camp Fire Recovery Effort.

Christmas was Day #47 of the Disaster. Normally by that time in the disaster most people either went back to their homes or relocated outside the affected area either temporarily or permanently. This was not the case here as about 700 people were still at the Red Cross Shelter Campus located at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, CA, a city of slightly less than 100,000 people and about 90 miles north of Sacramento.

There was little interest from traditional broadcast and print media with the notable exception of the local newspaper, The Chico Enterprise Record. According to Wikipedia, “The Chico Enterprise-Record is the daily newspaper of Chico, California. Also known as the E-R, the newspaper was first published in Bidwell Bar, California as the Butte Record in 1853 and is now part of the MediaNews Group Corporation, who took control of the paper  in 1999.”

You can read a very good story on Christmas Day at the Shelter at: bit.ly/2VG7har (which is also a photo source).

Social Media, as you might expect, was ablaze with action, most of it rumor mongering.

While I was stationed at the main reception area at the Fairgrounds, a volunteer came up to me and said “You need to meet with this young woman.” I was introduced to a young woman in her late thirties or early forties. In the olden days we would have said ‘she looked like a hippie chick’.

Clearly articulate and concerned she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She explained that she felt that the Red Cross was getting a bad rap on Facebook. She knew that because one of her friends was a volunteer at the A. If I let her look around the shelter facility for herself she would use her Social Media outlets to set the record straight.

As many of you know, I’m not an impulsive person, in this case I went with my ‘gut’ that this was indeed the right call and got her a “Day Pass” which gave her unfettered access to the campus.

Later in the day I found out that she made very good use of that access. In showing her the dining facility an hour or two later, it was quite clear that she knew many of the people who were at the shelter.

While I didn’t personally check her postings, the Shelter Site Director told me he was quite favorably impressed with her as a community leader and hoped to enlist her help for other projects such as a Christmas in January party for the children of Paradise.

Moral of the story: sometimes you have to put the analytics aside and just do what you feel is the right thing.