The hacking of the New York Times website, and presumably others, by the Syrian Electronic Army, has a lot of people talking. In talking to a great client and friend about this the comment made was that New York Times doesn’t seem to want to talk about this. Nothing on their website (now that it is back up) about this issue.
I googled the story and found the New York Times had an article on it two days ago, August 27, in their media and advertising section. So, of course, they would say “we covered that story.” And they did. But what it means is if you are now coming to the story, or if there are new developments, or if you want to dive deeper you have to go to their search section, or much more likely, google it.
Maybe that’s the only way. But it seemed to my friend, and to me, when something is being talked about in other media so much that it would be a bit more visible on their website. It’s like companies in crisis not having any reference to the highly visible issue on their site–they look oblivious, head in the sand, hope it will go away. That’s kind of how New York Times looks–and why not? Why highlight an issue that doesn’t make them look good–is their security that bad?
That comes to the dilemma we face in crisis communication. We want an issue to go away, but we need to be transparent. As Jim Garrow points out in this excellent post about “Bite-Sized News” that most new viewers today are looking for “snackable content.” And lots of frequency. (By the way, I’m not pointing to Jim just because he says some very nice things about me here!)
For crisis communication we’ve learned some important lessons in the last while:
– keep on talking–even when news media go on to the next big story, it doesn’t mean those affected have lost interest. Keep on talking.
– Update frequently–even if you don’t have anything new to say, you can still say that, but those interested will keep checking back.
– Provide “snackable content”–bite-size chunks of news, but you still have to offer the full meal deal to those who want it, which is why Twitter and your website have to work together
New York Times may not be in full-scale crisis, but the hacking thing is a crisis of sorts. They are acting in exactly the same way companies in crisis mode too often act: put out the occasional or maybe one time press release and consider the job done. There, we communicated, now leave us alone. Doesn’t work. Keep on communicating, let us know what you know, give us updates, offer in-depth details and just a headline. That’s not asking too much.