Tag Archives: post media world

What YouTube Direct means for the post-media world

The movement toward a true post-mainstream media world took another big leap forward with the announcement last week of YouTube Direct. There’s been lots of talk, including on this blog, about how the 300 million plus people walking around with smartphones are the electronic newsgathering network of today. And how the news outlets such as CNN and CBS and trying increasingly hard to tap into this network of citizen journalists. YouTube brilliantly just made it a lot easier. While I confess I haven’t looked at it in detail it looks a bit like combining YouTube downloading capability with some HARO (Help a Reporter Out) functionality. So someone with a cell video camera can capture something stunning like Tom Cruise jumping on a couch over his new love or houses floating by on a flooded river and immediately post that to YouTube, where it can the be easily accessed by media, bloggers or anyone else to share. Also, those looking for video on specific topics can request it or search and those with them can submit directly. That seems to be the idea as I understand it.

What this means of course is more access by anyone who is interested to the videos and information they want.  The implications for crisis and emergency management professionals is significant. Now more than ever when you respond, the story will be told already. The chances of getting the first word in are remote–unless you completely control the exposure, such as if you are David Letterman and decide you will reveal the sordid facts and not leave it to someone else. If you don’t control the first hint of what is going on, then by the time you can respond, the world–at least those most interested–will be already receiving a stream of relevant info. The real question for crisis managers and emergency responders is how do you manage an event when everyone who cares very well knows more than you do? That to me is the big question that we will be struggling with in the coming years.

PRSA Podcast–crisisblogger discusses realities of instant news and social media world

Eric Schwartzman recorded an interview with me at the PRSA conference in Detroit in late October. I recently spotted it posted on the PRSA site. Here’s the link if you want to hear my basic spiel.

Learning from clients

Last week I spent a few days meeting with clients in the LA area. Again, I feel so fortunate to be able to work with top level communicators of major agencies and organizations. Once in awhile I feel like I contribute a little to their thinking about their communication challenges, but mostly I just learn so much from them. I see a big part of my job in my work with PIER and on this blog to share these learnings so they can be of benefit to all.

I am seeing a steadily growing awareness of the instant news world and the impact of social media on the work that public affairs and media management professionals have to do. But I am also seeing a continuing and perhaps growing gap between the communicators who are trying to adapt their policies and plans to meet the demands for instant and direct communication and their bosses who tend more to operate in the old world of mainstream media domination, slow news cycles, and little to no interaction with key audiences.

One comment from a client was telling–“I’m having a problem with how fast we are able to get info out.” Despite appropriate approvals for distribution, the very quick distribution of vital information was catching some in the organization by surprise. And some of these people don’t like to be surprised.

It is critically important–and something I have come to emphasize a lot in my presentations recently–is that communicators who do “get it” need to continuously work with their superiors to help them understand the new instant news and social media realities. The organization’s leaders will make the ultimate and most important decisions about communication and they can only make informed decisions if they are, well, informed. Don’t expect them to read this or sit in on teleseminars about the changing world of information–that is up to you.

Secondly, while you need to keep the approval process as simple and streamlined as possible, you also need to be aware of the need in some cases to stage information so that you don’t catch important internal audiences by surprise. At least if you can avoid it. Even a ten minute heads up may be much appreciate and help them understand in advance what you are doing. It may even give them a chance–if there is sufficient reason–to yell hold the press!

Another observation. I’ve had some interesting discussions with communicators about the fact that in this day “you are the channel.” It is something I talked about at length in Now Is Too Late, but in this post-media world, audiences go where they will for information and often choose to go direct to the sources of information rather than through intermediary channels such as the media. That means your website plus the push communication you do becomes the direct channel to those who are often the most interested and most impacted by what is going on. That is a tremendous advantage. Tell your story directly. Don’t put it in the hands of those whose primary agenda is to build an audience–often at your expense. You are the channel. It is great to see progress in thinking at some very high levels.

The "post mass media" world reference

Finally! I started using the term “post media world” in about 2000. The initial book title for Now Is Too Late was The Post Media World–but my publisher rightly talked me out of it. I have wondered why that term didn’t gain some currency. It appears that maybe that is starting. Here is a reference to a PRSA Professional Development seminar with the title: “The Naked Brand in a Post Mass Media World.”

I have to admit that post mass media may be a little more descriptive and accurate because technically the “new media” are still media. But there is a great difference and that is the opportunity they offer for one on one as well as one on many and many on one communications. We could also say I suppose that our ears, eyes, nose, mouth and all senses are “media” in that they mediate information, our understanding and experiences of the world. But they are certainly different as media than NBC News or the Wall Street Journal.

I must be getting too philosophical here–come to think of it, that’s just what my publisher said.

More instant news lessons from a recent crisis

Wrapping up from a Memorial Day weekend crisis event and wanted to reflect on a few lessons learned. It’s not appropriate to go into too many details but it did involve extensive news website, newspaper and broadcast coverage in a major market.

When the event happened, the reporters either did not try or could not immediately reach the appropriate media contact person for the main company involved. But the ran a report based on comments from a spokesperson from another company involved that were completely erroneous and, if left unchanged, could have quite serious consequences for the business of the main company.

Despite the clearly erroneous report, and despite the knowledge that the information the person provided was clearly in error, the reporter would not correct the statement because it would have meant contradicting the quotation that was a lead in their story. However, we could not get approval from the authorities within the main company (our client) for our 14 hours to correct the misinformation. It seems clear in retrospect that they did not see the urgency, the communication managers involved in the company did not have the standing or willingness to push the business manager responsible for clearing the statement, and the attorney involved either was largely unavailable, unaware of the consequences or didn’t care. Not sure.

We were able to put a corrected statement out noon on Memorial Day–but we had confirmed the correct information 10 pm on Sunday night. All morning on Memorial Day all major news outlets ran the incorrect information. The corrected statement did nothing to stop the damage because by early afternoon the outlets were onto some other story.

Herein lies the problem. Approval processes, legal reviews, and complicated bureaucracies are simply not geared up for the instant news world. They apparently did not see the critical difference between getting an approved correct statement out by midnight versus noon the next day. This is old world thinking at best–when news evolved in days and hours, not minutes and seconds.

An essential problem is that even if communication managers understand the implications and risks, if those who are responsible for approving information and therefore timely release don’t understand it, communicators have little choice but to sit back in frustration and anguish while the precious time ticks by. I think this means that communication managers have a huge task in front of them to help educate their leaders to the realities of the post-media, instant news world so that they are all on the same page relating to speed.

But, in retrospect, I must admit that in this case I didn’t follow my own strong advice about being too media centric. We could have communicated privately to customers of this company (a relatively small group of industrial customers) to let them know the media reports were incorrect. We could have done this without official approval from HQ because it was very much in the purview of local management to do this communication. But, we on the communication side were so focused on the incorrect media reports, we simply didn’t recall and act on this simple but important step. One more example of crisis communicators being too media centric–in this case, me.

Media Centricity in crisis communication

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.