Frequent crisisblogger readers will think I sound like a stuck record on this topic. But I continue to see too little evidence among communication professionals including crisis communication experts that they understand the post media world.
There is no question that media coverage can have profound impact on public opinion and whether or not the organization or organizations involved in a response will be trusted. However, that impact is directly related to the degree to which the organization(s) communicate directly with those affected. Let me put it this way–if in a disaster response you have received prompt, efficient and caring support above and beyond what you expected, what would your opinion be? And if you then or saw on tv those responding were slow, uncaring, inefficient and generally bad people–would that change your opinion? Not likely.
The web is still the most powerful opportunity for direct communication. Add to that email, mass notification capabilities, RSS feeds, blogging, twittering, youtube, flickr and all the other new means of getting your message out directly, there is simply no reason that I can think of to put your information eggs exclusively in the media basket. Experience has proven that the very best way to positively impact media coverage is to tell the truth yourself and directly. Still, most crisis communication plans have media engagement as either the sum total or 90% of the effort. Until they treat reporters as one of many critically important audiences, we will continue to operate in a world that disappeared a few years ago.