Developing a Social Preparedness/Response Strategy

Developing a social strategy is never as easy as it seems.  And sure, you can take the trial and error approach to social media.  However, at some point, you will want to develop a holistic strategy to maximize your effectiveness.  After all, outreach is very important to preparedness and response efforts. The more your stakeholders are prepared and know what to do, the better.

To maximize your effectiveness, you should develop a social strategy based on four key steps:

  1. Define your People
  2. Evaluate your Objectives
  3. Create your Strategy
  4. Decide on your Technology

1.  Define your People

The people are the most important aspects of this strategy.  They represent the whole reason for developing a social strategy in the first place.  Essentially, you want to provide real value for them.  As such, it is important to define and truly understand who they are.

Here are some helpful considerations:

  • How many different audiences do you have?  What are they?  Why have you split them this way?  Are their any internal secondary audiences?
  • What are the characteristics of each audience?  Are they generally technology savvy?  Busy people?  Income levels?  What are their sociological demographics?
  • What is the ability to access technology like?  Where do they tend to congregate (online and offline)?

It is very helpful to develop a full profile for each audience to better understand who you will be trying to connect with.  This is much a business plan as you try to better understand your target audiences by describing them.

2.  Evaluate Your Objectives

Objectives represent what YOUR organizations want to achieve.  Of course, there will be consideration for what people need as well, but these should inherently be aligned!

Here are some helpful considerations:

  • How many objectives do you have?  What are they?  Can they be grouped more broadly?
  • Are you trying to change behavior?  If so, what behavior?
  • Do you want to share, produce or curate information?  What kind of information?
  • Are the objectives clear and concise?  Can stakeholders easily buy-in?
  • Are there any measurements to know that you have achieved your objectives?  Can you be specific?  (e.g., 60% of citizens have a preparedness kit)

Developing objectives are not an exact science.  In fact, they can and probably will evolve over time.  Start to define some and be sure to get feedback from others, including audiences.   Where possible, add objectives that you can measure.  Ultimately, you will want to evaluate for effectiveness of what you have planned to do.

3. Create Your Strategy

Strategy brings together the different characteristics of the audiences you defined along with your objectives. Strategy represents the intersection of people and objectives. Think through this carefully and be sure to get feedback along the process.

  • What kinds of things to you want to do? Do you want to start a blog, a social media account, mapping? Will it resonate with your audiences as well as your objectives?
  • Do any of your strategy ideas get priority? Why?
  • If you were to diagram this on paper, what would it look like? Concentric, hierarchical, independent relationships?
  • Do you have the overall concept? Do understand how the strategy will be implemented and then managed?
  • What policies, procedures, guidance or training is needed?

Your strategy will be the most evolutionary as your social/online program grows.   It may be helpful to develop multiple strategies and select the best one.  You may return to the others at a later time.  Your strategy will likely be highly interdependent and connected, so you should take the time to develop this.

4.  Decide on Your Technology

Noticeably last is the technology that you will use to accomplish your objectives and strategy.  While technology is important, it is more important to first define your intentions regardless of technological capabilities.  This ensures that you efforts will be maximized for what you are trying to accomplish rather than being distracted by the wiz-bang features offered.

Here are some helpful considerations:

  • What tools are available that will help you reach your audiences?  Which ones accomplish your objectives and strategy best?
  • Is there one solution or multiple solutions that will meet your needs?  What audience facing solutions vs. management oriented solutions will meet your needs?
  • Are hosted solutions are appropriate?  How much training is needed or are the system(s) fairly intuitive?
  • Is the cost of a particular feature so great that you may want to consider assigning the process to someone instead of using a solution?
  • What is the cost-benefit associated with certain solutions/options?

The technology you choose to employ is critical.  You may be using it for a long time.  However, understanding your priorities will help determine where technology is needed the most and if it might be better to go without a particular solution for a while.  Give this some good thought and identify your most critical technological needs.

NOTE:  Solutions are increasingly offered as "hosted" solutions meaning that no installation is required on your systems and you can access everything from the Internet.  The security concerns around this have largely been addressed and many organizations find this perfectly acceptable in addition to being the most economical.

Final Thoughts

For many, trial and error is an adequate solution initially.  However, as you grow and get more effective, you will want to outline the most effective way to accomplish your objectives.  The consistency you achieve with your audiences will be much appreciated and pay off dividends.

Remember that prioritizing this information is critical.  Technology solutions will NEVER be 100% of what you are looking for.  It may be wise to accept the 80% solution rather than pay enormous customization or purchase costs for the remaining 20% of features.

Lastly, this strategy should be considered a living document.  Update and edit as frequently as needed.  You may learn things that you never though of before mid-way through implementation.  Keep an open mind and make change part of your everyday!

For more information on this subject, I highly recommend Groundswell:  Winning in World Transformed by Social Technologies.


What audiences and objectives do you have?  What strategies have you developed or are looking to develop?  What solutions have you found work best and why?