The Thin Line Between Traditional and Social Media

Like many of you, I woke up this morning and turned on the TV to see what looked like a low-budget action movie being shown on my local news station. Swat teams everywhere, the focus was on a white home. Officers had guns aimed at the house and were shuffling residents down the stairs. A possible apprehension was taking place right before my eyes, and I was shockingly close to the action. I couldn’t believe it was happening in real life and in real time.

The shot switched from the live view to a photo that had been Tweeted by a resident (@samanthae0) in lockdown near the scene. (I still can’t get over the fact that she took the time to add a filter.)

The media coverage this morning of the ‘Boston Bombings Manhunt’ was unlike any I have ever seen. Between the proximity of the cameras to the scene and the images from social media sites, I felt as if I were there.

Over the past few years, we’ve been seeing news media using content from social media outlets more and more. Every other day I see a dancing dog from YouTube on my local station. But it’s being used for actual news, too. Earlier this week, we saw that Texas fertilizer plant explode before our eyes via a YouTube video.

While social media can serve as an amazing tool for providing instantaneous news and reports, it can also act as an impactful source to perpetuate false information, like we saw with some of the early reporting on the Boston suspects. Now, I’m not knocking social media. I just want to point out that because it is often used as a source for traditional media, we need to make sure the correct messages are going out.

Earlier this week, Cedar wrote a post that gave companies some social media tips to follow when a big national tragedy occurs. But what if a crisis arises—be it large or small—that directly relates to your company? How do you control the messages that might eventually end up in the news media via social media? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1)      Everyone’s a reporter. Social media makes anyone on the street a source. Always watch who you and your employees are talking to and what you say.

2)     Monitor social media. Of course, as a brand you should always be monitoring social media to learn what the public is saying about you. But in a crisis situation, this is especially important. You need to be able to address inaccurate information in a timely manner to help set the record straight.

3)    Prepare statements. In any crisis, one of the first things you should do is prepare an official statement and get that out to all of your company’s representatives. Anyone who interacts with the public should know exactly what to say to keep your messaging accurate and consistent.

4)    Create a social media policy. It goes without saying that having a solid social media policy in place is one of the best ways to ensure others on social media are hearing your message. (Refer back to Cedar’s post for more on this.)

As the line between traditional media and social media continues to get thinner and thinner, be sure the right messages are getting out to everyone, be it news reporter or man on the street.

(See also, a previous blog post I wrote on crisis communications.)

April 19, 2013 · Posted by in pr, social media  

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