Social media plays a key role in communicating weather and climate information. Many agencies and organisations now have a social media platform or two, which shows a growing trend of social media as a serious communications and information dissemination tool.
Closely following on the heels of the Fourth Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF-4) held in Nadi, from 10 to 12 October, a Social and Digital Media Training for Meteorological Officers kicked off from 13 to 15 October.
The workshop, facilitated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), with support from the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), aimed to introduce and strengthen social media skills to Pacific National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) officers, in an attempt to boost communication and information dissemination for NMHS.
“Social media is a great and wonderful tool. It can help businesses and organisations share their services and information on the internet quite efficiently – and for free,” said Mr David Bathur, a Co-Founder of Simpatico who was contracted by PACMAS to help facilitate the workshop.
“However, social media also poses many challenges and risks, for all users, which even those of us working in the industry do not yet fully understand. Knowing this can help us become better users, and that is really one of the key reasons for this workshop.”
For NMHS and met officers, the risks of using social media can be more than the average user’s, because the information they share impacts the safety of people’s lives. But this is also why NMHS, particularly in the Pacific, should consider using social media to communicate and disseminate their information.
“Social media is one of the main tools we use to get our information out to the public,” said Ms Faapisa Aiono, Senior Scientific Officer of Samoa Meteorological Service. “When there is a tropical cyclone alert, we share this with the public through all our channels – TV, radio, newspaper – but social media is the most efficient because it is instant and there is an increasing number of people now using social media to communicate.”
While the met officers generally agreed that social media was the quickest way to get information out to the public, they also warned that social media can also increase public panic, misinformation and understanding, or even false information.
“We have had instances where unofficial information regarding tropical cyclone activity was shared by unofficial sources, causing widespread panic amongst the public,” said Ms Azarel Maiai, COSPPac Capacity Development Officer at SPREP and one of the workshop facilitators.
“This is why met services need to have greater visibility in the realm of social media, and ultimately why this workshop is so important – to help our met officers create better content and increase their follower base by developing a strong relationship of trust on social media, a platform that is already clouded by misinformation.”
In addition to learning about social media and the various platforms in the context of the Pacific, participants also learned about working with traditional media, and writing press releases.
At the end of the workshop, participants each had a turn to reflect on what they had learned, and how they hoped to take that knowledge back to their countries and apply it to their own work.
“I don’t normally write press releases back in Tuvalu, but after this workshop I will be able to go home and write press releases in order to better control the information our met office gives to the media, because sometimes the media misunderstands our outlooks and write the wrong information for the public,” said Mr Niko Iona, a Met Officer of Tuvalu Meteorological Service.
The Social and Digital Media Training for Meteorological Officers was held from 13 and 15 October in Nadi, Fiji, by SPREP with assistance from PACMAS, UNDP, WMO and COSPPac.
The PICOF-4 Technical Meeting is being held in Nadi, Fiji from 10 to 12 October, and is coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) with its Technical Partners, made possible with funding by RESPAC Project through UNDP, COSPPac Project through SPREP & BOM and CREWS Project through WMO and Canada.
#PacMetDesk #4PacIslands #SPREP25 #PICOF4 #ResilientPacific