Tag Archives: monitoring

Fact Check–an idea whose time has come

Let me put it right out there–I think a “Fact Check” section should be on just about every major organization’s news website. And a prominent feature of almost any crisis or incident specific website.

Why?

1) The media often get it wrong and their corrections (on the rare occasions when they are willing to do them) or often insipid and hidden.

2) Rumor management is job one for official communicators.

(Explanation–when news reports are increasingly generated on social media, the “official news sources–you” simply can’t be fast enough in most cases to provide the initial reports. That leaves you the job of knowing what is being said and making certain it is correct–rumor management)

3) The social media to mainstream media interconnectedness means that rumors, even wild ones, can be spread and grow with incredible speed.

(By the time you get around to the process of contacting the reporter, moving it up the chain, them reviewing and making a decision about retraction, the story has long gone and something more immediately has replaced it.)

4) Because you are the broadcaster.

(Today, more and more news is going directly from the source to the public and stakeholders–mainstream media is losing its position as the sole or primary “mediator” of information.)

If you want to see how this works, I suggest you look look at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (full disclosure–they are a client and I was involved in setting up their Fact Check process). A local ABC affiliate ran a story that was incorrect. It involves the very sensitive topic of water rates. The public affairs staff at DWP led by Joe Ramallo quickly noted the incorrect report on the Fact Check section of their news website. I’m certain they also contacted the station. A correction was soon in coming and DWP profusely thanked the station for the correction.

My questions:

1) Would KABC been as fast and as forthcoming as they were if DWP was not very publicly communicating their clear error of fact?

2) Next time, will the reporters and editors treat stories from secondary sources with a little more caution–in fact, any stories about DWP with a little more caution?

Public affairs is all about credibility. Fact Check only works if the correction is absolutely, 100% correct and without animus or attitude. It’s about what is true and who can be trusted. And that is why it is so effective, because believe it or not, even mainstream media know that credibility is important.

Crisis management–putting your ears to work

I’ve been talking for some time about the rapidly growing role of monitoring as a critical part of crisis communication. Also been saying in presentations that social media and the online conversation is where so many people are going to get their information. That crisis communicators need to understand at best they will participate and the days of control over the information flow are over.

Being involved in a fairly major event in the past week has brought these lessons home. We are using a variety of means to monitor what is going on–everything from PIER MediaTools to view and clip media including broadcast, to Google Alerts, to Twitscoop.

A few quick observations.

1) Media monitoring shows a tremendous amount of media activity but a lot of it is from the fact that media are now major players in social media with their news websites. All print media as well as broadcast use their news sites heavily which makes for a lot of traffic, frequent updates, and a tremendous amount of linking by interested viewers via their blogs and Twitter accounts.

2) Local is global. This is a fairly localized event with only a smattering of national media attention, but the conversation is global. Those interested (or passionate) about topics involved are going to be jumping into the conversation heavily and will keep it going as long as it of interest.

3) People learn from each other. It’s fascinating watching the online conversation and see many of the same news stories or comments showing up over and over on different sites. It’s one of the reasons this monitoring is so important because invariably some get the facts wrong and unless the correct information is readily available or the wrong info is quickly challenged, it does not take long for it to become accepted. The only saying about a lie repeated often enough becoming the truth takes on new urgency in the viral world of social media because it can be repeated a hundred or thousand times in mere minutes or hours.

4) The conversation was always there–but now you can hear it. That is something that really strikes me about a big change in communications and crisis management. All major events stirred lots of conversation–dinner table, office chat, in bars and restaurants, wherever people gather. Except now they don’t gather to have conversations, they do it by text, tweets, blogs, comments, all kinds of social media. And that means you can listen in on a lot of those conversations. Sometimes it seems its like the roar of too much conversation in an overcrowded bar. But if you focus in a little, you can hear fascinating things. And these can give you great insight into how things are turning, what the concerns are, what questions need to be answered, what information is going sideways, etc. In other words, the conversation will drive the communication response as much or maybe more in some cases than the events of the response itself.

5) Participate–not control. It’s is still very difficult for most response leaders and those who have been in public communication for a long time to really grasp this. In this world of heightened conversation, you don’t control the information. At best, you participate. But you do this by providing a continuous feed of of relevant, up to date information about what is going on. You can’t participate if you insist on sticking to a one press release a day strategy. And you can’t participate by putting all your eggs in the press conference basket–as important as it is. You participate by being the best, most reliable source for what is really happening. Then, you will find, as did in this incident, that soon your website will be given shortened url and sent around the twittersphere and blogosphere as the fastest, most relevant source of what is going on.

The new crisis management emerging–and it works

This post from Bulldog Reporter is one of the most encouraging I’ve read in a long time. It demonstrates the dramatic change that has occurred in organizations in building fast response methods to averting potential crises.

I just finished reading another WWII history book–this one called “Scramble” by Norman Gelb about the Battle of Britain. For those not up on this history, this was the battle between the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the RAF or Royal Air Force of Britain. Though outnumbered 3 -1, the heroic and hurriedly trained RAF pilots took such a toll on the German fighters and bombers that Hitler had to cancel his plans for an invasion of England. Truer words were never spoken when Churchill said “never in the history of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few.” Or something like that.

But, the secret to their success was really in their intelligence gathering and their superb organization. Radar was a new invention but they deployed it effectively along with ground observers. They also decoded the German’s military radio signals in a very secret operation called ULTRA. They used these various early warning signals to identify the size, direction and altitude of the incoming raids. Based on this, using their great operational control method devised by Air Marshall Dowding, they directed their overstretched fighter resources to where they could do the most good. Although knocked to their knees, the Germans could never land the knockout punch and Hitler in frustration turned his focus to attacking the Soviet Union.

The new crisis management depends on using today’s radar–social media. Monitoring it closely, and then with organization aimed at near immediate response, moving exceptionally quickly to assess the problem and respond. As the post demonstrates admirably, it works. Many crises can be averted if the problem is dealt with soon enough. The Institute for Crisis Management has reported consistently that 75% of all business crises are “smoldering” in the sense that an issue exists that could erupt into a crisis and if it does, it is usually because the issue is not dealt with soon enough.

It is very encouraging to see major corporations adopting the “Distant Early Warning” and fast response methods that have proven so effective in the past. I just blogged about the increase in trust in business. Hmmm, maybe there’s a connection.