Saturday, February 27, Chile was hit by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake. Offshore aftershock quakes in Chile have been recorded in the last 24 hours with a magnitude up to 6.1 (USGS, March 4). Hundreds are reported dead. The world was recently galvanized to record donation levels by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti on January 12, killing over 70,000. A tragedy in each respect, yet the results are different.
At first the Chilean government resisted international aid until they could assess the damage. They then found, that the damage was worse than they had suspected and it was hard to even assess it all because of communication failures.
Social media is prominent in Chile right now, with Twitter playing a key role in communication in the country. MSNBC reports that Chileans are using Twitter to urge each other to open up their WiFi networks so that people can use the internet to let others know they are safe. Chile seems to be in a better position in terms of telecommunication – a larger population is online in Chile than Haiti (versus landline communication), so word is getting out a lot faster.
While Twitter is helping victims of Chile’s earthquake help each other, it is also demonstrating frustration on the behalf of would-be donors. Tweets of “now we have to give to Chile?” are evidence of donor fatigue, as seen in the Huffington Post.
What is one of the many differences between the two tragedies? Communication.
“Nothing compares to what was raised for Haiti,” says Christian Zimmern, co-founder and vice president of the Washington-based Mobile Giving Foundation, which started in 2007 and channels text-message donations to a handful of vetted Haiti and Chile charities. “It’s all about promotion,” Mr. Zimmern said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “If you don’t get that message out to viewers, people don’t know. If Ryan Seacrest says something, or MTV is doing something on it with celebrities, that’s when you drive volume.”
Without an immediate, high profile appeal to the public, the ability (or desire) to help is very different. And we can see distinct parallels between this situation and communication for any other crisis. – Speed is critical – your message has to go out quickly, sooner rather than later. – What you need has to be relayed succinctly. – Instructions in your message gives those on the other end of the call/email/SMS/Tweet/post a clear action take.
Do you see the differences in reaction to each tragedy? Are there parallels in your own organization when it comes to reactions from messaging?