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Jamie BiglowHeather Marshall
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Social media is an ever-changing means of communication that poses challenges and enormous opportunities for emergency management agencies. Social media can enable emergency management agencies to provide potentially life-saving information during an emergency or incident. Moreover, agencies can use social media to gather information during and after an incident both to identify individuals needing assistance and to develop initial assessments of the affected area. Unfortunately, many emergency management agencies are uncertain how to leverage social media best and frequently experience unexpected challenges with social media communications during crises. Therefore, greater sharing of lessons learned from past real-world incidents has the potential to benefit the emergency management field. To facilitate this exchange, CNA conducted a study of best practices in social media crisis communications from emergency management agencies at the state and local levels. This white paper summarizes challenges, potential best practices, and areas for growth from stakeholders across the country.

CNA’s study methodology included a literature review and key stakeholder interviews with public information officers from state and local emergency management agencies across the country. CNA categorized the collected interview data around key problematic areas, such as addressing misinformation and disinformation, building trust and credibility with community members, coordinating messaging across agencies, and communicating nuanced information to the public. CNA has presented aggregated best practices for these problematic areas reflecting the collective advice of more than one agency and additional smaller-scope best practices recommended by only one agency.

This white paper contains many findings, and it may not be feasible (or even advisable) for emergency management organizations to implement all recommendations. However, armed with an understanding of community needs, jurisdictions can implement the recommendations that best serve their organizations and their communities.

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Approved for public release. Unlimited distribution.


  • Pages: 23
  • Document Number: IIM-2023-U-036795
  • Publication Date: 10/13/2023