Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Swarm journalism and the future of crisis communications

The blurring of the lines between professional news organizations and reporters, and citizens reporting on event through social media, means a necessary change in your crisis communications response posture.

The death of singer Whitney Houston brought great sadness to a lot of people but also provided yet another example of the power of social media in how people get their information. While the question of the veracity of news being "broken" on social networks is being debated, organizations should not miss the following essential points: 
  • legacy or traditional media are no longer the primary audience in your crisis communications planning 
  • news move at the speed of social media ... instantly, from everywhere to everyone 
  • any organization must have the ability to monitor social networks and respond on the same platforms within minutes 
  • holding statements are done ... (especially if they're issued an hour or more after the first tweet ...) and should be replaced by constant (in routine situations) and ramped up (when the crisis comes) engagement on social networks from the moment the crisis erupts ...
The traditional lines between professional journalists and citizen-reporters are blurring by the day.

This video from Mashable on the latest tool to allow media to manage news comiing from social networks sources is only a sign of the rapidly evolving process where information created, distributed, consumed on mobile devices by all sorts of people, professionals or not. While it's not an easy process for legacy media, the tide is just too strong for them to resist ...despite their best efforts.
This means that organizations can no longer ignore the social aspect of any crisis. If they do, they severely hamper their capability to respond and engage effectively. The "head in the sand" approach certainly won't work.
So, when the "swarm" of social reporters, news outlets and your stakeholders are talking about you .. on social networks, on the air or with clients and rivals, you need to know, you need to be present ... and that means using social media .... or you can decide to ignore the crisis ... and go down with your ship ... (or not ...!) ... that's where leadership matters ... 

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