Tagged: emergency management

Jan 16

Identify your target audience

The “General Public” should not be your audience. Be much more specific when defining your target audience. Otherwise, you will waste resources (and who has an overabundance of those?!?) on trying the get the right message to the wrong people.

Who are you trying to reach with your message? You will likely have several different groups in mind when starting to craft your outreach program. And that is a good thing. It means you have a healthy and diverse community. And it’s also a not-so good thing because you will need to craft different strategies for each target audience. What may work well for one group may completely alienate another.

Here is where you can learn from one of my mistakes. We developed a publication that we called the “Go-Kit Passport.” It was a small, durably-produced product meant to hold information valuable to have in an emergency situation. It had pages for drawing maps of your neighborhood and designating meeting places, pages for photographs of people and pets, pages for medical information, and many more pages for useful information. It was very popular in English. But, when we translated to Spanish, an issue came up because of the word, passport, in the title. This caused confusion and prompted a call to our office from ICS. We changed the title for Spanish publications. So the lesson here is to think about your solutions from many different angles and anticipate problems from serving more than one narrowly defined audience.

So take some time and think about the differing groups in your community.

  • Policy makers
  • Responders
  • Parents
  • Retired people
  • Pet owners
  • What are other groups in your community?


When creating your list of target audiences, use the following list of questions to finely tune who you are targeting. Ask questions as you build the profiles in order to learn how best to serve the information to your target audience. Their answer will guide you to the framework needed to best serve them. Come up with your own questions that reflect the needs of your unique community and target audiences.

  • Who do you depend on to get information about hazards in your area?
  • Who do you depend on for help during a disaster?
  • What are your concerns about earthquakes in your community?
  • What are your questions about earthquakes in your community?
  • Would you need help during an emergency? What kind of assistance?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • Who are the stake holders?
  • Who are the leaders of your group?


Once you decide who you need to reach you need to find out how best to do that. By answering the above questions, you can learn a lot about your various target audiences. And more importantly, how to reach them with your messages. You will want to find active methods of getting your message to the audiences. Don’t stick a flier in the utility bill, and expect to reach a large percentage of the population. That is an example of a very passive method of outreach. While it can be effective, when targeted and timely, it can also fail utterly and completely, thereby wasting your time and the audience’s attention span.


Oct 19

Understand your hazard or issue, then find a story to tell

Every successful outreach program tells a story. This story needs to form the kernel of your program messaging. For our earthquake and tsunami program it is, “Be a survivor.” This simple phrase comes from a wealth of understanding of the issue, the science behind earthquakes, and even more importantly the science of marketing and branding. Because really? You are selling a product just as much as Coca-Cola is. And you are competing for the consumer’s attention span and dollars just as much as Coca-Cola is, although I doubt you have millions of dollars to spend on your campaign. So study the competition and how they do things, but more importantly study your own issue or hazard.

Before you even begin to think about your outreach program, you will need to thoroughly examine and understand your hazard or issue. If you aren’t excited about this prospect, you may need to find another line of work. Because if you are not thoroughly enamored by your topic, then it may be hard to sustain the curiosity and energy needed to successfully complete your program. I’m going to go on the assumption that you are passionate about your issue. Otherwise, Pinterest is calling you.

In order to know the best way to find a path forward, you have to know where that path has been. Assemble a history of your program or issue. Who were the early adopters and creative thinkers? Are there seminal works of research or publications? What are the methods and theories at work in your field?

Spend time with the experts and scientists in order to learn from them. They will be great resources as you move forward with your program. Hang out with them at conferences; take opportunities to go have a meal or beer with them. Scientists love beer. Want to make a scientist a friend? Buy them a beer. Just don’t make it a cheap beer. And if you are buying one for me, I prefer a stout. The idea here is to create the networks of knowledge that will support your outreach program later.

Educate yourself on the science so that you don’t have to rely on others for your opinions. You may not be a geologist, or a biologist, or a rocket scientist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself enough to speak authoritatively on your chosen subject. Because you will be asked questions along the way that will require a somewhat technical response. It is always ok to say you don’t know the answer, but at least be able to direct them to those who can answer technical questions. So depending on what your hazard or issue is, you could be faced with the following questions:

  • How do hurricanes form and what is the role of the warm ocean temperatures?
  • What makes subduction zone earthquakes so big?
  • Why is it not a good idea to try and surf a tsunami?

You don’t have to be a scientist to educate people on a subject. You don’t need to have a doctoral degree in a scientific field to answer these questions. You just need to have done your homework. And learning is fun. So get out that big brain of yours and learn something new today about your hazard or issue. The more you know the more effective advocate for your cause you will be.

As you educate yourself, keep track of questions that are raised and their answers. These can become the basis of a FAQ which will be a valuable tool in your kit. You don’t want to have to keep looking up the same information. Then, you can post this on your website to help educate the public during your campaign. It’s a win-win situation.



Sep 20

Hello and welcome to the blog that ate my homework, Alfalfa Press, an avid exploration of all things that I find curious and intriguing.

You will find posts relating to many of my interests, but mostly it will be an outlet for my thoughts on public outreach and running an effective outreach campaign. Eventually, I will pull everything together to offer an eBook on the subject. Many of the posts are chapter excerpts and explorations of specific questions and best practices. How do I know what I’m talking about? Currently, I am the program coordinator for the geologic hazards program for Oregon Emergency Management. This gives me plenty of opportunity to try many of these concepts out on an unsuspecting research group, the entire state of Oregon. <insert mad scientist laugh here>

You will also likely find bits about some of my other interests; Merovingian material culture, graphic design, and (quite honestly) whatever else comes to my mind at any given point. This means you could be in for a wild ride. Squirrel!

If the Merovingian thing piques your interest, I encourage you to pop over to my other blog, Suvia’s Letters, where I keep most of that information. This is where my academic heart beats the fastest. Nothing gets my juices flowing quite like delving into some new bit of information or translating an obscure article in a foreign language and making it accessible to a whole new audience. One of the reasons why this period interested me was that so little is known about it. At least that’s what I thought years ago. There is actually quite a bit of published research… in French, German and other languages. So I spend a lot of time going through publications and pulling out the information and posting it on Suvia’s Letters. I also spend a lot of effort trying to get information out of researchers across the pond.  [Mr. Perin…call me!]

Another interest of mine is graphic design and drawing stuff. I don’t get to do this as much as I’d like. This artistic outlet also serves another purpose by providing a (currently rather meager) source of income. You can see my designs at my Cafepress shops. Take a look at Malarkey Pie for sciency/geeky stuff and Suvia’s Emporium for historically-inspired stuff. I come up with something especially cool or clever, I’ll post about it here. Please to consider purchasing something for someone on your gift list. Your purchase helps to fund a future research trip to Europe as well as the cost of running this site.

A future post will be on my fantasy research trip to the museums housing Merovingian artifacts and visits with researchers and visits with living history groups. My husband would like to visit Italy to see where his family originated, but that would be just for fun. The other part of the trip, the Merovingian part through France, Germany, Belgium, and Poland would be work, work, work! No, really. I suppose I should go buy a lottery ticket. 😀 It’s for science!