Convey the Message: How Social Media Helps Us Serve you Better

On January 7, 1994, as I was about to leave for another semester at Loyola University in New Orleans, there was an oil spill in San Juan Bay. An oil tanker leaked 750,000 gallons of fuel in the Atlantic coastal area. I read the news two days later in my first class on News Editing. That was the first time I used the Internet in a classroom. My professor, a seasoned journalist and a great mentor, asked me, “Aren’t you from San Juan?” We read the story on a California newspaper Web site. Countless pictures from the disaster spoke for themselves. EPA personnel from Caribbean Environmental Protection Division were on the scene responding to the disaster.

A few weeks ago, when the CAPECO oil tank farm in Bayamon burst into flames, less than a mile from home, I went straight to the Internet for information. While most local news sites only had a few sentences on the incident, some of my friends had already posted their amateur videos of the fire on Facebook. As a public affairs specialist, I can tell you that we’ve come a long way from just using traditional media tools. Nowadays messaging happens in realtime. The Internet and social media have added a new dimension to the field of communications.

The blog you are reading is part of this new dimension. When I was asked to write for Greenversations, I was a little hesitant. With training from EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, I got it nailed. Since blogs are statements from a personal perspective, they are a great tool to quickly strike a resonating chord with the reader.

Recently I read a speech on social media given by GSA’s Chief Information Officer. In it she emphasized how government is changing the way it interacts with citizens through blogging. I also read an article on crisis communications which discussed how blogging shapes our response to a crisis. It provides timely information from a human perspective. A human voice can help connect with the public’s emotional response during a crisis. I invite you to read Greenversations or Gov Gab at USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov It is one way to stay connected with the people we work for: the general public.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the SanJuan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

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