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Posted at 09:39 AM ET, 05/20/2011

Zombie apocalypse a coup for CDC emergency team


Before the zombies came, a typical CDC blog post would get around 3,000 page views over the span of a week. On Wednesday, the CDC Web site crashed when 30,000 people tried to see one viral hit of a blog post titled “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.”

On Thursday, the Twitter feed for CDC Emergency hovered right around 12,000 followers. Overnight, that number multiplied by 100, to 1.2 million followers, thanks to the smart campaign the CDC launched to get people thinking about emergency readiness. The tagline: “If you’re ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you’re ready for any emergency.”

The idea was hatched last week, when the CDC public health preparedness group started plotting their annual campaign to raise awareness about the upcoming hurricane season. “There’s not a lot of pickup on the message,” Dave Daigle, associate director for communications, said. “Preparedness and public health are not the sexiest subjects.”

One member of the team mentioned a tweet that asked about zombies during the Japan nuclear crisis. It seemed created quite a bit of buzz. Then, Daigle said, the idea for zombie preparedness just popped in his head. He took the idea to his director, who luckily has a great sense of humor. They put up a blog and a couple of tweets, and the rest is viral Internet history.

“It was overwhelming. A tweet every second,” Daigle said. “We were trending yesterday! Things like the Royal Wedding trend. Not the CDC.”

In my post on Thursday, I gave the group a hard time for forgetting a samurai sword in its emergency preparedness kit (you can see the other tips I got for fighting off brain eaters here). But the campaign was always meant to get people thinking about emergency plans — not fighting off zombies.

Daigle said that’s the next step: “Measuring the hits and views is great, but did people really make a plan, did we really affect behavior?”

With the flooding in Mississippi and hurricane season fast approaching, he certainly hopes so.

By  |  09:39 AM ET, 05/20/2011

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