Friday, June 26, 2009

citizen reporting

i wish i could take credit for the term "citizen reporting," but i actually saw it in this youtube blog post. a pretty interesting thing, this bit about apple's 3g iphone intro causing youtube mobile vid posts to increase so dramatically literally overnight.

there've been numerous examples of cr, mostly i think having to do with twitter and the tweets that people sent following the bombings in mumbai, the usair landing in the hudson and of course the
recent tweets on the unrest following elections in iran. the implications for crisis communications, i think, are unbelievably important.

what does "citizen reporting" mean for communications professionals?

1) your job is 24/7. i know, a big "duh." this was always the case, but now even moreso because "news" is going to be transmitted from the initial moments of an event, quite possibly even before your comms people in the location know what's happening. is it possible for twitter to send an actual alarm bell to your blackberry to wake you up in the middle of the night when something happens to your company in europe or asia? (tell all your developer friends there's srlsy big $ in an app for this).

2) your involvement is critical. maybe another big "duh" ... but i wonder how many comms folks have yet to incorporate social media into their formerly-well-designed crisis plans? if not you, someone needs to be designated to tweet into the stream with credible info. a situation where individuals are writing "there are hundreds of dead bodies here!" when in fact casualties may not yet have been confirmed can be incredibly damaging and work at cross-purposes to your crisis comms efforts. you need a private channel and a public channel, and need to ensure that you transfer the right info from one to the other as the situation unfolds.

3) your brand is on the line. companies' reputations -- and often their stock prices -- can sink dramatically with poor handling of a crisis. pre-social media, it was easier to manage the coverage, either by making phone calls to reporters in advance of bad news, or avoiding their calls when they checked to confirm. that's no longer an option. there are likely to be numerous sources, all of whom have an up-close-and-personal view of the situation, who may speak as experts simply because they're there and will write what they see. but as we all know, proximity is not the only (nor necessarily the most important) factor in determining the truth. a person who's unconscious may appear to be a fatality to someone who's not a medical professional...yet, i think the tweeter still is unlikely to rephrase as "there are hundreds of unconscious people here!"

some pr folks are looking down their noses at twitter, saying "it's a fad, it won't last, i don't need to worry about it"... but i wish they'd think again. if we could learn how to use this technology to get a step ahead of crisis situations and other similar events, it could be a real boon to our companies, and the public, both of whom deserve the best info and our best efforts to get it to them quickly.

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