The city of Charlottesville, the surrounding counties, and the University of Virginia community have been dealing with a crisis for the past week. On September 13, Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old second year student at UVa went missing.
Social media really lights up in a crisis, and can be useful for those trying to share a message, such as the tweet below from Charlottesville city government, encouraging witnesses to come forward.
If you have information that might help CPD in their investigation into missing person #HannahGraham, call the tip line: 434-295-3851
— Charlottesville City (@CvilleCityHall) September 21, 2014
People who may not normally pay attention to Twitter or Facebook are tuning into these platforms to try to get the most up-to-the-minute information. These platforms can be helpful for that, and it’s good to see the news organizations live streaming press conferences and sharing news updates as they are available. A couple of ways to stay on top of these are to follow the hashtag #hannahgraham on Twitter and to like the pages of local news organizations reporting on the unfolding story. https://www.facebook.com/NBC29 is one, and https://www.facebook.com/Newsplex is another.
In all crisis communications, one of the main rules is to refrain from speculation. Speculation can hurt a criminal case, it can distract from the mission at hand, and does not assist law enforcement in doing their jobs.
Here are five things you can do to help in the search for Hannah Graham:
- Share updates on Facebook from official sources to gather volunteers to search for Hannah, that share the WANTED poster of the person of interest in the case, and the tip line information to help make it accessible to anyone who might have a lead.
- Retweet sources announcing press conferences or other news the Charlottesville Police Department wants shared.
- Use the hashtag #hannahgraham to become part of the search stream on Twitter.
- Steer clear of fueling rumors or speculation about the case by staying out of online conversations about it.
- If you have something relevant to share, contact the police department, not the media.
Let’s all try to stay focused on helping the law enforcement professionals in this difficult case.