Tweeting Safely--PIER Incorporates Social Media into Crisis Communications Process

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Twitter and Other Social Media Included in PIER Distributions

Twitter's value has been demonstrated by helping people communicate quickly and efficiently, but it represents a huge control challenge for many government agencies and corporations. The question is who is authorized to 'tweet' and how is information discipline maintained?

PIER Systems, Inc., the leading provider of emergency response and crisis communications technology, today announced a process for incorporating Twitter feeds into standard distributions of urgent and critical information using the PIER System. Additionally, similar methods can be utilized to distribute information to other social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

According to Gerald Baron, PIER Systems founder and director of PIER Strategic Services, Twitter and other social media sites offer opportunities for organizations to get important information out quickly.

"Twitter's value has been demonstrated by helping people communicate quickly and efficiently, but it represents a huge control challenge for many government agencies and corporations. The question is who is authorized to 'tweet' and how is information discipline maintained?"

While the world of social media reacts negatively towards information control, it is critically important in the world of crisis and disaster communications. "Look at the Sago Mine incident if you want an example of the tragedy caused by loss of information discipline," said Baron. In that incident, in January 2006, the heartbreak of the loss of miners was compounded by false information widely distributed about their rescue.

"The challenge today is to be both fast and accurate", said Baron. The PIER (Public Information Emergency Response) System is widely used by multiple government agencies including the United States Coast Guard, non-profits such as the American Red Cross and major corporations such as BP and Boeing. PIER incorporates collaborative information development processes with multiple distribution modes including text and phone notifications, e-mail, fax, Web content, RSS feeds and more.

"PIER users view Twitter, Facebook or other common social media platforms as one more method of distributing critical information", said Kevin Boxx, PIER Systems' interim CEO and vice president of technology. "Users can distribute critical messages to social media sites in the same way e-mails or text messages are distributed--with the added advantage that all PIER distributions are subject to the same approval process."

However, Boxx pointed out the inherent dangers of relying on Twitter or any singular method of communicating critical information. "Twitter and other social media have an increasing reach but they are still limited, plus some of these new technologies are growing so fast their reliability has not been established." He emphasized the importance of using multiple distribution modes including text messaging, automated phone messaging and e-mails, and quickly updating Web sites with critical information.

All government agencies are subject to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) which requires Incident Commander control over the release of information related to an incident and its response. Because of this, the approval process is imperative.

PIER was created out of a large-scale response involving the Incident Command System and the Joint Information Center (JIC). Since then, the approval process has been central to PIER's operation. As the speed of information development and delivery has accelerated, that approval process is more critical than ever.

PIER is widely used to support JIC operations when multiple agencies or organizations come together to coordinate communication in an emergency response. PIER is also used by large and complex organizations with dispersed teams that need to collaborate to develop and approve messages and respond interactively with the media and stakeholders. According to Baron, these organizations are struggling with incorporating social media into their daily public affairs and crisis communication plans.

"PIER offers the technology and processes needed to meet the twin demands for instant information and information that is vetted, edited and approved."

Existing PIER users can access detailed instructions on incorporating Twitter and other social media sites into their communication processes on the PIER User Resource site. PIER Systems technical support staff can assist any PIER user with establishing Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites as an add-on to their PIER subscription. Users can request this setup service by e-mailing

For more information on this topic, read the "National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Social Media" white paper by Gerald Baron.

About PIER Systems

The PIER System is the world's first and only all-in-one, Web-based communications management system. Many Fortune 500 companies and top organizations including BP, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Marathon Oil Corporation, NASA, University of Houston, USDA and all 9 districts of the United States Coast Guard, use the PIER System for internal and external communications with employees, the public, investors, the media and more. PIER's advanced technology and powerful content management tools provide business continuity, safety solutions and preparedness standards. Features include contact lists, media management, mass notification, news and press release distribution, document approval and more in one easy-to-use platform. For more information visit


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