Sunday, April 18, 2010

On the future of journalism, new technologies and the opportunities for PIOs

There was a recent meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio and Television News Directors Association in the US. It represents a kind of "state of the industry" conference for people in the news biz.

One thing struck me ... a quote from a senior news leader:
"People aren't having a hard time finding what's going on ... They're having a hard time figuring what it means. I don't think the technology is helping us with that." Bob Horner, President of the NBC News Channel.

He was referring to all the mobile technology that makes citizens, viewers, listeners ... gatherers of information. As a former reporter, I can understand the anxiety that prevails in the news industry these days. Their last rampart is their desire (and that's more and more difficult) to be neutral and objective, to adhere to those notions that made journalism in North America a great defender of the Truth.

Now, as a PIO or crisis communicator, I see the Horner quote in a totally different light. If people have the information. If they know what's going on. Our role should be a little different than it traditionally has been.

We're not simply releasing information to the media anymore ... it's still important but more and more ... we have to educate as we go ... help ensure that those who are concerned by an ongoing incident that affects our organization or client, get the meaning of this information.

What the impact will be on them, their family and so on. To do that, you need an established presence on the networks/platforms where your audiences get that information. It's all linked.

That means engaging in permanent dialogues with your audiences even during routine times, pre-incident. That's how you build credibility and presence (they go hand in hand ...), so that when an incident or crisis happens and people want to interpret the information they have, they come to you ...

Many studies indicate the growing importance of online/web information tools:

People turn to whom they trust during a crisis: family and friends certainly, but also other trustworthy sources: media and others who've established credibility. That can be (and is more and more so) social media platforms ...

In other words (I'll restate my favourite phrase): Be there and occupy the public space ... if you're not, you'll be irrelevant!

Just thought I'd add this: a good resource for some crisis/risk comms tips:

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