Social media tips: A recap of the August 2019 quarterly meeting (Part 2 – Twitter)

By Joe Dougherty, PIO
Utah Division of Emergency Management

In case you missed it, Zach Whitney’s information about how pages can use Facebook Groups is in this post.

Maximizing Your Twitter Game

Many people are not aware of the usefulness of some of Twitter’s functions. Here’s how to do it better:


Group the accounts you follow into lists so you can just watch their content when you need to filter out the noise of Twitter. You can create lists based on geography, discipline or any other grouping you desire. When you click on a list, you can view the tweets or the Twitter handles of the list members.

Example: In, addition to the examples in the image above, the Utah Division of Emergency Management (@UtahEmergency) Twitter account has lists for first responders in each county, the media in Utah, geology/earthquake gurus and more.

Pro tip 1: Don’t want to build the list yourself? You can just subscribe to another Twitter user’s list and watch the content like you own it.
Pro tip 2: You can add users to a list, even if you don’t follow them.


Want to remember that Tweet that you just need to hang onto? Just click or tap the little “send” icon below any tweet, such as this one with raspberry ice cream (yum!) and select “Add Tweet to Bookmarks.”

Then, (see the image on the right) when you click on your bookmarks, you have easy access to those tweets. In my case, I am constantly referring back to a tweet thread I wrote in February. I just appreciate that Twitter makes that tweet easy to find in my bookmarks.

Media Studio

Last year, Twitter launched Media Studio. You don’t automatically get access to it. You have to request it for your government page by emailing

Media studio allows you to have easy access to your entire library of images and video that you have shared previously on Twitter. Select the image, compose your text and either schedule or post your tweet from one window. Media studio allows you to post up to a 10-minute video instead of the 2:20 limit you have from posting within the regular app or desktop site. Here’s a short demo of the workflow:


Ever have more than one tweet you’d like to keep together, either for updates, context or because you have more information than will fit in 280 characters?

Consider writing tweets as a thread. Simply press or click the “plus” button in the tweet composer and Twitter will link your next tweet as a reply to the previous one. You then have the option to publish all tweets at once.

Twitter lets you thread up to 25 tweets to post at once. But you can expand that by simply replying to the last tweet in a thread if you need to keep that going.

Here’s an example of tweets 5, 6, and 7 in a thread I wrote following the earthquake sequence that happened in the south part of Salt Lake County in February. People wanted to know how bad would an earthquake be at their home. That requires an answer that is more complicated than “it depends.”

This information translated well into a longer Facebook post and was picked up by local media here and here.

Dark Mode

You may have noticed that all of my Twitter screen shots have a dark background. In your Twitter settings now, you have the option of the default (white) background, dim (gray) or lights out (black). I chose lights out for @UtahEmergency.

Missed Part 1 of our recap of the August quarterly meeting in Park City? A post about Zach Whitney’s information on Facebook Groups is here.

Joe Dougherty is the public information officer for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.

Social media tips: Recap of the August quarterly meeting (Part 1 – Facebook groups)

By Joe Dougherty, PIO
Utah Division of Emergency Management

When it comes to social media, there are two platforms that are essential: Twitter and Facebook. Do both well, and you establish your organization as a credible source of information with those who are consuming your content digitally.

Zach Whitney from UDOT discusses Facebook groups for government pages.

During our quarterly training luncheon in Park City on August 15, Zach Whitney from UDOT (@zachwhitneynews) and I (@PIO_Joe) shared some tips about using those two platforms more effectively to reach people who care about your message and to filter out the noise.

Zach’s presentation information is here and mine is in the next post, Part 2 – Maximizing Your Twitter Game.

Facebook Groups for Government Agencies

If you are going to do social media, and among the platforms you are using is Facebook, then Zach Whitney says that it’s important that you give people information that they actually want.

Facebook’s recent emphasis on giving users the chance to make more meaningful connections brought about the ability for pages to create and join community pages.

Zach’s slides are here, and you can see his takeaways below.

Join community groups

Let’s take it for a spin. Find a group you would like to join as a page. In this case, I am requesting to join a group called Utah Emergency Preparedness. Then, I select that I want to join as my page for the Utah Division of Emergency Management instead of as myself.

Group administrators have the ability in their group settings to decide whether to allow pages to join or not. I tried joining a Herriman emergency preparedness group, but it would only allow me to join from my profile.

There are various groups you could consider joining as your page.

  • Community 411/rumor groups (They go by different names in each county.)
  • County “yard sale” groups
  • Groups organized by topic (such as emergency preparedness)

Here are examples of groups UDOT has joined

a screen shot of the facebook groups U-DOT has created, including the U.S. 89 Farmington to interstate 84 project and an environmental study for state route 73

Create your own group

UDOT has created community groups (make sure you’re logged into Facebook to use that link) for specific construction projects and environmental studies and statements.

Here’s how you do it:

This is NOT an actual group we’re creating. This is just for demonstration purposes today. But who knows? Someday, we could create this group.

As a page manager, go to your page and click groups on the left-hand side.
Click “create group.” Name it, select administrators and a privacy setting and begin posting. Make sure to invite some people to your group. And spend some time in the various group settings.

Remember, the goal is engagement. How can you help foster conversations among group members so they have meaningful interactions? What will be most valuable to them?

This is what UDOT knows about its followers in the group. They want information when it’s relevant to them. Zach said they tried having some fun with some posts, but people were more interested in the relevant information. Their point? Just get us the information we came here to get.

This chart displays survey results from the question "how often would you like to see U-DOT post in the group: The lowest recorded responses were a few times a week, daily and monthly. The highest responses were for once a week and whenever there is relevant information

Join some groups

If you haven’t joined any groups, either as a person or a page, consider searching for something you are passionate about in Facebook’s search bar and then refine your search by groups.

If you haven’t yet, consider joining the Utah PIO Association on Facebook. Come in, ask a question, and watch the PIOs come up with responses.

Don’t forget email

If you’re doing social media, do it the best you can. Though it’s tempting to put all of our eggs in the basket of social media, it can’t be the only way we reach people. Check out these stats from UDOT’s survey to its stakeholders.

A well-written, well-timed email will still do wonders to get people the information they want.

This pie chart shows that 46 percent of U-DOT's stakeholders prefer to receive information via email. compared to 22 percent who prefer social media, 16 percent in open houses, 9 percent with mailed flyers and 5 percent through traditional media.

Want to see part 2 of our recap of the quarterly meeting? My info about Twitter is here.

Zach Whitney is a digital communications specialist for the Utah Department of Transportation.

Joe Dougherty is the public information officer for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.

Quarterly meeting recap: Cultural considerations and PIO Lessons from the Nurse Wubbels incident

Thank you to Salt Lake City Emergency Management, who hosted the May 9 meeting.

img_5956.jpgKenya Rene, SLC EM’s PIO, opened our meeting with these words of advice for communicators:

“I hope as we train and evolve with our communication skills, we include and become aware of uncomfortable subjects, like white privilege, cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions and equity vs. equality.

Our state is becoming more diverse as we welcome people from all backgrounds, Let’s connect with everybody, making sure we include them in event decisions and think of them when writing a press release, an invite or social media post.

If you don’t know, ask. Get informed about the culture or community you want to approach.”

Thanks, Kenya! For hosting the meeting, Kenya gets in free to the annual PIO Conference in September.

Moving on to our keynote presentation:

How do PIOs respond when their agencies are on opposite side of public sentiment?

IMG_5960Our many thanks to Kathy Wilets from University of Utah Health, Chris Nelson from the University of Utah and Christi Judd from Salt Lake City Police Department for presenting on the Nurse Wubbels incident.

No doubt, you have seen this video:

Here are the lessons Kathy, Christi and Chris shared during their presentation:

  • This was a crisis decades in the making. Agencies need to figure out now who is in charge and who has jurisdiction.
  • It’s important to sit down with players as soon as possible during an incident and in the aftermath. Lots of communication has happened between Nurse Wubbels and the SLCPD, between SLCPD and the hospital and to other groups, such as the nursing association, as well.
  • People will call 911 to report what they see on YouTube. Salt Lake City’s 911 dispatchers were beset with 911 calls for days because people were calling to report the Nurse Wubbels incident.
  • The incident affected the morale for officers at SLCPD and the university. They were all taking verbal punches for the decisions of one man. Remember your people who are still out working in the public eye in the aftermath of a crisis.
  • Have your talking points ready to go ASAP. Kathy received a call at the end of one day that started like this: “You are live on the BBC in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…”
    Because she was prepared, this encounter didn’t faze her.
  • Get your war room together. Prepare to pull in every resource (human and non-human) so you can get your strategy built and develop your messaging.
  • If you can, designate one person to field all media inquiries. Christi Judd called back every media person, which made messaging consistent to all media outlets.
  • PIOs, even on opposing sides of an issue, can be friends. Christi and Kathy talked often following the incident and continue to maintain a good relationship.
  • Be prepared to talk internally, as well.Don’t leave co-workers in the dark. They are part of your team. Your co-workers will also go home at the end of the day and neighbors, family members and friends will ask them what is going on. Help them be effective spokespeople.
  • What is your ongoing strategy to regularly communicate with the community? It’s not just about messaging the community during the crisis, but what are you doing now to serve the community and tell your story to build good will?

Thanks again to our hosts and to our speakers. The next quarterly meeting will be August 15 in Eagle Mountain City. Come ready to learn what we took away from the Government Social Media Conference, which took place in Denver in April.

Joe Dougherty is the PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.
Find him on Twitter at @PIO_Joe

Conducting your local PIO meetings

The “Liberty County JIC” during the Feb. 2018 APIO Course at EMI.

You’ve suddenly found yourself as the chair of your local PIO group! Congratulations! What a great opportunity to lead the enhancement of public information in your area.

It can seem daunting to have to wrangle PIOs to get them to attend a meeting, but if you provide valuable content, and someone can help with the occasional snacks or lunch, you can have a robust local PIO group. Below are some topic ideas to get you started with the content for your first meetings. Don’t forget to ask local participants what they would like to learn.

Topic ideas:

  • Ask for a status update.
  • Ask about any upcoming issues.
  • Hold a tabletop exercise to discuss emergency response or mutual aid plans for PIOs.
  • Conduct a JIC callout exercise.
  • Conduct a workshop where planning or operational documents are researched or created.
  • Provide training on various topics
    • Social media best practices
    • Social media monitoring
    • Live video considerations
    • Graphic design
    • Photography principles
  • Speaker ideas:
    • Invite media members for a discussion .
    • Lessons learned from a recent incident.
    • Find a State PIO to discuss their role in assisting your efforts during emergencies.
    • Discussion with local elected officials.

What other ideas are out there? What has worked well for you?

Joe Dougherty is the PIO Association Secretary and
PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management | Twitter: @PIO_Joe

Crisis Comms 101

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared on Ragan’s PR Daily today. Subscribe to PR Daily here if you want more good stuff like this.

5 crisis comms tips from the FBI

By Russell Working | Posted: June 13, 2017

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

1. Address the public’s three main concerns.

Jeff Lanza’s most important case as an FBI agent, he says, came in 1998 when a Missouri couple kidnapped a newborn from her room in the maternity ward while her mother dozed nearby. The ending was a happy one—FBI got the baby back—but Lanza, who now works as a communication consultant, recalls the shock of the hospital’s CEO and board members when he first met with them.

They asked what they should do.

The advice he offers holds for crises in general. He told them that people would want to know:

  • What happened
  • How you will fix it so it doesn’t happen again
  • That you care about the harm your crisis had caused in their lives—empathy, in other words

“If you do that,” he says, “you’re going to be able to recover from almost any crisis.”

Other tips include the following items explored in more detail:

2. Be the first and most credible source of info.

3. Don’t ask your mother how you looked on TV. Do this instead.

4. Remember the adage, ‘An ounce of prevention…’

5. Build relationships with journalists.

Read the rest of the blog post at PR Daily here.

Posted by Joe Dougherty, PIO
Utah Division of Emergency Management
Twitter: @PIO_Joe