Rattled & Shaken: Richmond PR Pros Navigate Yesterday’s Twitterquake

First, there was the magnitude-5.8 earthquake that rattled central Virginia at 1:51 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, and then there was the Twitterquake that erupted.

I’m not sure if Twitterquake is an actual word. The Associated Press hasn’t added it to its style book quite yet, but as my office in Midlothian, Va., stopped shaking yesterday the news junkie in me immediately wanted information.

My three daughters were safe, but my wife was out of town. I immediately turned on the TV and buzzed through the local stations. Of course, there was nothing quite yet. Like millions of others, I immediately went to Twitter, and posted this eight-word tweet at 1:53 p.m.

Information flowing at an explosive pace

Information on Tweetdeck was flowing at a pace that would make Carl Lewis proud. There was truly an explosion of information as people shared and connected.

Within seconds, others confirmed what I suspected: an earthquake and a big one at that. It was the biggest since a 5.8-magnitude quake in Giles County, Va., in 1897.  

Local PR pros effectively use Twitter

As the local and network TV stations scrambled to make sense of the 15 seconds that zapped productivity up and down the East Coast, Twitter was feeding my hunger for information. Thanks to @gosquirrels, I quickly knew that the Diamond, our minor-league baseball stadium was intact and from @Flack4RIC I learned Richmond International Airport officials temporarily evacuated the tower but the airport remained opened.

More importantly, later in the day I learned via @DomVAPower that its two North Anna nuclear reactors near the epicenter in Mineral, Va., shut down automatically via this reassuring tweet.

Dozens of other Richmond-area organizations, including many local PR friends, effectively used Twitter and other social media channels yesterday to engage with important audiences: the public, media and government officials.

Information continued to flow via Twitter faster than I could consume it.

With the TV on I rotated through stations, tweeting news nuggets from the coverage. The media’s job was even more challenging due to the massive overload of wireless networks up and down the East Coast.

In fact, the @RichmondPolice temporarily asked the public to use Twitter to share any emergency details.

Congrats to all of the Richmond PR and communication pros who used social media so effectively yesterday.

Stay tuned for a blog entry later today: "Six Communication & PR Tips for Managing a Twitterquake."

Jonathan Rhudy is looking forward to getting back some of yesterday’s lost productivity today.