Colorado PR pros relied on social media and direct communication with constituents more than news releases when flood waters ravaged communities in cities and counties along the state’s Front Range last fall.

While representing the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD) in Denver, I reached out to the Public Information Officers in major cities and counties in the metro area to offer support.  (UDFCD photo)

“We’ve sent out hundreds of Tweets but only one news release,” said Jacki Kelly, PIO for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.  Instead, Jefferson County communicated through:

*Twitter

*Jeffco Sheriff’s blog

*Jeffco website and

*Facebook page

Any time the blog was updated, a Tweet was sent and news was cross-promoted regularly on their platforms.

The major news media was focused on more severe flood damage farther north in Boulder and Larimer counties.  To address constituent hunger for information, the county became a publisher of information. People trapped in their homes and sheriff’s deputies on the road sent photos of damage.

“We used Flickr a ton” to share what was happening in Jeffco,” Kelly said.  The county also has a YouTube channel to carry videos of emergencies.  They use Instagram for photos and Vine to disseminate 8 to 9 second videos.

The Sheriff’s Office already had followers on Twitter and Facebook, which helped getting the word out.  Public entities best serve their constituents when they build those relationships before a crisis hits, although the county doubtless received many more followers on Twitter and Facebook as a result of their news feeds.

Crisis communication is most effective when planning is done in advance. Let us help you prepare for that crisis while there is time to refine messages and build your social media infrastructure.