12 October 2014

Reporting on Ebola, safely

Doctors, nurses, family and friends are taking considerable risks to treat people infected by Ebola. As Professor Peter Piot, the head of the UN's Ebola response, said: "the smallest mistake can be fatal".
Reporting a health crisis is possibly equally dangerous, but very different from reporting on a conflict or war zone. How do reporters and their crews cope?

A unique BBC report takes us behind the scenes, to look at the precautions that one team is taking to interview professionals and families and attend funerals. Notably, despite the breathing masks, full body suits and rubber gloves, the BBC crew are still not going into the 'Red Zone' where patients with confirmed Ebola infections are present. Sadly, it is often the poorly-equipped local staff, with limited training and poor compensation, who are doing the riskiest work in this crisis.

See the story and video here: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-29581414
For a grim read about the realities of an Ebola clinic, read this report in the New York Times: A  Hospital From Hell, in a City Swamped by Ebola 

06 September 2014

Ebola shows how (not) to communicate in a health crisis

IFRC - the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - has spoken plainly about communication problems during the Ebola outbreak in Eastern Africa.

Ebola is scary because there is currently no proven cure. This has led to panic and strict controls, including border closures. That has limited the options for agencies, like IFRC, that are trying to help solve the crisis and treat the victims.

Though this story is full of development sector jargon, the message is clear: get people involved at all levels and don't just issue commands, but also listen and get local people involved.

"the communication approach in these circumstances should be “less top-down and less giving orders,” and not just limited to the agencies and their volunteers on the ground. It should be a multi-stakeholder effort, involving the corporate sector, the media and community leaders, with the government in a lead role. [Everyone] has a role to play here."

Read more on Devex.com

30 April 2014

40 ways to improve your social media posts

A simple but powerful list. What are your secret tips?

1. Write with a consistent, natural and conversational tone of voice. 
2. Focus on your readers. Understand their interests, needs, desires and motivations. 
3. Focus on timely topics but add your own voice. 
4. Add value to a post by encouraging discussion, asking a genuine question (advice or opinion).
5. A post should be clear and easily understood.
6. Avoid simply promoting your own company or work. 

Twitter (follow me: @Scott_McQuade)
7. Post 4-10 times a day.  
8. Avoid repeating a tweet more than once a day. Don’t automate the same tweet.
9. Include 1-3 relevant hashtags in tweets to help people who search by key words.
10. Include links, to get 86% more engagement.
11. Use images for twice the engagement rate.
12. Shorter tweets get read and re-tweeted more (under 100 characters).
13. Use no more than 130 characters, so people can retweet and add hashtags etc.
14. Live tweeting of events helps people follow along: nominate a clear, simple hashtag.  
15. Post during working hours for 30% more engagement.
16. Ask for re-tweets of important posts: it drives 12x more re-tweets. 

Facebook (like my Facebook page
17. Consistent quality matters more than quantity.  
18. No more than 4 posts a day.
19. Short messages work best. Long messages are okay if they’re compelling.  
20. Timing matters, but your audience is international. Spread posts throughout the day. 
21. Don’t forget weekends! Readers are more engaged when they have more time. 
22. Photos attract readers, responses and re-shares. 
23. Emoticons receive a 59% higher engagement rate, but use sparingly.
24. Explicitly ask readers to like/comment: it drives higher engagement.

Google+ (put me in your Google+ circle)
25. Include an image to grab attention.
26. Include links or post web articles (web links usually include images).
27. Pose a comment or question to encourage discussion.
28. Monitor discussions and return to the post to interact with readers.
29. Hashtags are automated, but make sure they are appropriate and delete if needed. Include 1-3 hashtags at the end of your post, but only if needed.
30. Keep it short: 1-3 paragraphs. Only a few lines are immediately visible, so get to the point.
31. Share with specific circles as well as making posts public. Include usernames in the post or comments to draw their attention or give thanks, but do it sparingly.

LinkedIn (if I know you, let's get LinkedIn)
32. Only share high quality content. 
33. Share new, informative material. Readers are happy to learn.  
34. Be a thought-leader by only talking about your area of expertise. Join relevant communities.
35. Only discuss professionally relevant topics. LinkedIn is not a general discussion forum.
36. Start conversations with a thought-provoking statement or question. 
37. Avoid simply promoting a corporate initiative or service or posting a news story. Instead, put it in context, pose a question and invite comments.
38. Prepare to engage with discussants: don’t post and run. 
39. Don’t simply post a link to a website. Put the content on LinkedIn for better engagement.

40. Share your expertise: add your own tips below!

Most of these commonsense principles also apply at Tumblr, YouTube and other social media sites.