Social media and the 24-hour news cycle are part of a fundamental change in our sociological structure. We all have to understand that there will never again be a major event in this country that won't involve public participation. And the public participation will happen whether it's managed or not. Before the oil spill, I had already started blogging and tweeting.
Admiral Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.)1
For over 100 years SH&E professionals have been actively engaged in protecting people, property and the environment, though the fundamental roles and responsibilities have changed and evolved to meet the needs of changing times. The expanded role beyond safety into environmental and security concerns has been embraced by many; some long held postulates about injury causation have been debunked; a foundational change in paradigms that mandate the focus on prevention through design have been brought forth; and sustainability as a key driver in organizational strategy is part of ongoing discussions. Now it is time for SH&E professionals to embrace a new way of communicating with their audiences – social media.
Social media is rapidly becoming such an integral part of business operations that its use is now commonplace for essential product launches, developing consumer loyalty and sharing organizational news. Citizen journalists use social media to provide instantaneous information to their followers and the general public, often hours ahead of traditional media. ASSE Foundation Director and self-proclaimed "digital whisperer" Faye Feeney summarizes the current situation when she says:
Do you know someone who brags that they don't text, tweet or care about social media? I like to diplomatically tell these folks their digital zipper is down, and it not helping them look relevant.2