Tag: reporters

Crisis Communications: What today’s news cycle looks like

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By Amanda Kerr, Consociate Media Writer and Media Strategist

In the days before the Internet and 24/7 cable news, a reporter had all day to finish a story. Big news came on the 6 p.m. television and radio newscasts and replayed at 11 p.m. For newspapers, the story didn’t actually reach readers until the paper hit newsstands the next morning.

Ah, the good old days! In today’s highly digital world, the news cycle is constant, driven by immediacy, the urge to be first and the desire to maximize audience reach on website and social media platforms. So what does that mean for public relations and corporate communications?

It means managing social media, websites and mass media. It means reaching reporters for each cycle on each deadline of the day: writing for the web and social media posts while also writing for print, radio, TV and online. It means you’ve got to keep up.

Communications in a Crisis

“If it bleeds, it leads.” That’s the long-standing mantra driving news coverage. The day’s latest crisis, whether it’s a chemical fire at a plant, a security scare at a college, an airplane crash, or layoffs at a local factory, will set reporters swarming for facts, information, context and commentary.

Effective communication during a crisis is based on preparation. A business or organization shouldn’t be coming up with a crisis communications plan as the crisis is unfolding. Having systems, protocols and timelines in place long before an unfolding crisis – big or small – is the best way to prepare.

It’s imperative a business can respond quickly, accurately and effectively under duress. Knowing which audiences you need to reach, how you want to reach them, who you want to be the voice or face of your company and the type of information you’ll need to gather is essential to successfully managing a crisis.

Having prepared statements geared toward specific incidents is key. These statements are essentially templates that can be quickly edited to address the specific situation at hand and then pushed out to your website, social media and news media. These are critical to responding quickly and effectively.

Immediate Response

If a crisis breaks internally, be ready to put out an initial statement as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a reporter to call if you can avoid it. Directly addressing a negative situation head on builds trust with the press, consumers and clients.

Should a reporter obtain potentially damaging information before you’ve had a chance to prepare an initial comment, don’t wait too long to respond. Call back within the hour if you can. Waiting to comment won’t delay the story until you’re ready. If your business doesn’t speak to the media, there’s a good chance someone else will.

Don’t expect reporters to show patience in a time of crisis. Remember, they’re under a lot of pressure to get something online so it can get pushed out on social media. Then they’re expected to update the story on their outlet’s websites throughout the day as new details become available.

But keep in mind reporters also don’t necessarily expect you to have all the answers in that first phone call or news conference. They just want to confirm the facts and offer context for how the business or organization is addressing the issue or emergency.

When a crisis is unfolding, the story is likely to change and develop throughout the day. Reporters understand that.

Transparency

The primary goal of crisis communications for any business is to ensure consistency of message and mitigate negative publicity due to speculation. The best way to do that is to be honest and transparent.

Attempting to cover up the magnitude of a situation can only make a business or organization more vulnerable. The absence of the truth tends to drive others with information to the surface. A concealed fact that end up shared on Twitter or Facebook can go viral in minutes, and all that will do is make you look guilty.

Be clear about the situation. Don’t hide the bad news. Speak with empathy and sensitivity. Offer information about how the company is handling the situation and what type of services will be made available to those who are affected. If you aren’t clear on the facts of an incident or if a response plan hasn’t yet been finalized, don’t speculate or guess. It’s better to say you don’t know or that a plan is under way than to offer up information you’ll later have to take back.

While it may be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the first day of a crisis, it’s not over. Don’t stop communicating. Continue to share updates and information on your company website and social media as well as with the news media. That way you’ll continue to have a voice in the ongoing coverage and avoid negative press due to lingering unanswered questions.

And remember to stay calm, stay confident and remain professional at all times. Managing a difficult situation with integrity is the best way to communicate in difficult times, get through it and come out stronger on the other end.

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How reporters use social media, today’s mass media

By Amanda Kerr, Consociate Media Writer and Media Strategist

Just three years after Harvard College student Mark Zuckerberg and three of his roommates launched a website to connect fellow students through the world wide web, a seminal media moment occurred immediately following the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16, 2007. A lone gunman murdered 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech and in the aftermath the press harnessed the reach and power of social media in new ways.

Reporters at The Washington Post used websites such as Facebook and Craigslist to quickly locate students connected to the tragedy. Messages students posted through Facebook were compiled in a story and names of victims appeared on The Washington Post’s website before they had even been released by authorities.

Facebook and other social mediums have become tools for the media to not only find people and contact them, but also to reach new and wider audiences. The very nature of Facebook — what was once meant to be a fun way for people to “socialize” on the Internet — has evolved and today it has become one of the leading ways younger audiences consume news.

Newspapers, magazines, blogs and television news stations use social media to promote stories and engage with readers and viewers. It started off simply enough, maybe a post teasing an upcoming weekend feature or a few links to breaking stories, but has since expanded to the widespread use of linking comment sections on articles to Facebook profiles, for example.

With the advent of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and others, including storytelling methods such as podcasting, the way in which reporters both report and gather the news has dramatically changed in the 12 years since the launch of Facebook.

What does that mean? For starters, social media has afforded reporters the opportunity to do a lot more reconnaissance on a subject, organization, business or person than just looking for a phone number on whitepages.com. Social media has become a go to place for local governments, school districts, businesses and nonprofits to promote events, share news and engage with customers and citizens.

With all that activity on social media, that’s where reporters are going first to look for the latest news on a company or organization.

It’s no longer just an obligation for businesses and organizations to throw up a few posts; social media is an essential part of a larger communications strategy.

Newshounds can track down supporters of a gun rights group, garden club, local business or school using social media. They can research social media channels to better understand an organization’s current projects, values or messaging. And they can use that trail to cast a wide net to find the best leads and the best stories.

Reporters, however, no longer passively use social media as voyeurs. The multimedia options available offer an entirely new platform for storytelling, whether it’s breaking news, photos, video, or abbreviated posts in the form of tweets. There are myriad ways to use social media to enhance a traditional newspaper, radio, or television story that helps give the audience another perspective.

That same approach can help a commercial real estate firm, apparel company or app developer engage customers through blog posts, social media campaigns and behind the scenes photos and video that tell their story and sell their brand.

Using social media to sell a brand isn’t something reserved for just traditional retail businesses. The various social media platforms allow media outlets and reporters to sell their news brand too, be it a newspaper, television i-Team, major news network, radio station or podcast.

The technology also gives reporters the opportunity to brand themselves. And it gives readers a more intimate perspective of their interests. Reporters can personalize posts by sharing a national news story that matters to them, or describing how a tornado has affected their own neighborhoods. That branding is good for engaging very distractible audiences who are bombarded by a host of competing media interests.

There’s something else, too. Social media allows reporters to actually connect with readers or viewers in real time. They can answer questions or respond to feedback. Reporters often use social media to connect with potential sources as well through Twitter direct message and Facebook messenger. The technology makes it easier than ever to reach out and connect.

The opportunities for generating story ideas over social media are endless. There are as many potential stories as there are social media users.

If businesses and organizations aren’t using social media to its fullest potential, there’s a good chance customers and clients won’t hear that message – and reporters won’t see it either.

It goes beyond just having things to post on Facebook and Twitter. Businesses, organizations and media outlets alike have to be present. They have to be relevant. They have to be accessible.

The world of mass media has been forever altered, going from a handful of Harvard students who wanted to connect socially on a website initially called “thefacebook” to a new media giant — just plain old “Facebook” — that has reshaped the world of news gathering, information dissemination and interaction.

What hasn’t changed, however, is connecting with people and sharing the stories of the world around us.

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