Yesterday and today (21 & 22 June 2016) the Ohio Department of Agriculture is spraying for gypsy moths in the Greater Columbus Metro Region. This is a pretty simple process that’s been done several times over the past number of years. However, as it happens every year, my news feed and the comments sections for local media outlets are utterly flooded with people freaking out about ‘strange, low-flying planes spraying chemicals’ and then complaining about not being warned when they find out what is going on.
I found myself asking: Who failed who?
Was there a lack of warning? A quick search (less than 15min) revealed a fair number of releases (at the bottom of this post) relating to this event. These notices ranged from back in February to a number of reminders during the week leading up the event. I think one would be hard-pressed to say that little effort was made to notify citizens.
Were the releases not targeted for the audience? In looking at the variety of outlets ~ print news, television news media, radio, Twitter, Facebook, government agency websites, City calendars, flyers / mailings, and normal press releases, I would argue that reasonable efforts were made to reach a wide swath of the population.
Was it a result of a public that doesn’t understand the importance of following local governments and agencies (and as a result, failing to recognize the important information that comes from them)? I am inclined to say “yes” on this point.
What do we do from here as Public Information Officers (PIOs) / External Affairs Officers (EAOs)? This was pretty textbook for us ~ use a wide array of media outlets, a variety of methods, and repeat the message multiple times ~ and yet, it still resulted in a great deal of confusion.
Since our normal techniques didn’t work, how do we improve?
- Building better relationships with community organizations that can spread the word for us (neighborhood associations, houses of worship, civic centers, gathering places, and so on).
- Ensuring that we communicate with our colleagues in our local media outlets to present this issue multiple times in the week(s) leading up to the scheduled event. We must ensure that they have several opportunities to warn the public and prepare them.
- Attempting to make better use of the multiplicative power of our social media outlets by leveraging our connections to spread the word for us through quoting our releases, passing information on, and Retweeting / Reblogging / etc our posts.
- Other ideas from you all ~ post them in the comments below!
- Ohio Department of Agriculture first issued a Press Release (opens a .pdf file) regarding informational Open Houses on 1 February 2016 and a reminder Press Release (opens a .pdf file) on 15 June, Retweeted Worthington’s post from the 16th on their Twitter, and posted multiple updates on the day it was happening.
- City of Worthington posted on their Twitter 16 & 17 June, their Facebook on the 16th, and their Community Calendar HERE.
- City of Dublin posted on their website HERE on 20 June 2016.
- I read from some commenters that the received a flyer / mailing to their residence to let them know about the planned activities.
- Franklin County Emergency Management / Homeland Security issued a reminder on the 20th.
- Franklin County Sheriff and Franklin County Public Health both Tweeted about it on the 21st.
- Clintonville Area Commission mentions it in their March 2016 agenda released on 19 February 2016.
- I Retweeted City of Worthington on the 17th.
- Local outlet NBC4i first published a piece on 04 May 2016 HERE and again at 0652 on the day of spraying, 21 June 2016 HERE.
- This Week Community News published back on 01 March 2016 HERE.
- NPR Affiliate WCBE posted during the morning commute to warn everyone HERE.
- Downtown Columbus dot com posted an update on the 21st HERE.