Thursday, August 21, 2014

A shooting in Missouri ... part 2

This whole #ferguson mess is an ongoing crisis communications "how not to" ... 

My first post on this focused on the crisis comms (or lack thereof) during the protests that followed the Michael Brown shooting. 

I also put a Storify relating police actions (as they were experienced by protesters) during the protests ... Quite a narrative. Many say that protesters get what they deserve. They're agitators, rabble ... even communists ! (another image from the 50s and 60s ... another reason why this whole situation echoes of the Civil Rights movement).

But can we really dismiss all the calls for police restraints as overreactions from bleeding heart liberals? I don't think you can when you see this: 

So, people ask questions ... but they remain largely unanswered. Prosecutors do their thing (which seems like foot dragging ....), the situation about the investigation into the shooting remains murky (is there a police report? or not ? ) ... And when reporters want to know ...when they question police actions .... especially during protests .... here's what often happens ... journalists are apparently the enemy for Ferguson authorities.

That's one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. The incident commander (Capt. Johnson) walking along ... surrounded by officers in full tac gear. On the outer ring, reporters asking all sorts of questions ... normal right? To be expected in a tense situation, right? 

Was the police prepared? No. Where was the PIO (public info officer) to help handle the media ... potentially diffuse the situation? Nowhere to be seen.

It's that type of situation ... lack of transparency and openness that has a lot of people questioning everything ... from the shooting itself, to what happened in the minutes/hours that followed, in the ongoing investigation and the protests.

And people are surprised that trust is gone? 

The thing is, social convergence puts everyone in the public eye ... there are cameras everywhere ... smartphones ...people videoing ... tweeting ... 

That's why a crisis comms response has to be immediate, consistent, transparent and open ... it revolves around the following four imperatives: 

  1. alert/notify those who should be made aware (for their safety, they're stakeholders, for public info ...) be proactive ... occupy the public space with a quick notification ... that's going to give you time for more detailed messaging later
  2. understand your response is going to be scrutinized, analyzed, dissected on social networks and even live streamed across the world via mobile devices ... How's that for training your people not to pull an "officer go f*ck yourself" ? 
  3. monitor social networks ...what's being said about your response? who's shaping public opinion ? Are they relaying/amplifying your messaging? or have your comms being usurped by other more vocal and MORE PRESENT voices ? 
  4. keep the dialogue open and ongoing ... don't revert to the old days of relying on a daily media briefing ... keep on social networks ... engage on your online friends to retell YOUR story ... going dark is a path to comms oblivion ! 
Maybe, one day, we'll know what really happened ... in the meantime, the police in Ferguson is a victim of its own ineptitude ... because nothing they say now can be taken at face value ...there's just too much doubt ...

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