Now that every person and company can virtually not only make it in the news, but make the news itself, we're bound for a bumpy ride on accuracy. There are two challenges in this scenario: 1) is that of standing out in the sheer tide of bits being shared as news in real time, 2) you may not be able to stop or correct inaccurate information once it starts spreading.
Add to that the knee jerk reaction of many businesses that wish to ride the news cycle when something happens, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, and what you may have is a recipe for disaster in addition to disinformation. This happens because the efforts are harried and not thought-through in order to get a message out quickly. AdAge dubbed it confusion. I'm more inclined to call it something else.
In the rush to be seen doing something, a brand or person often trades accuracy - and trust - for immediacy.
News grounded in vision
Situations like responses to world events are one reason why you need to have a solid business strategy, which in turn informs how your company or brand behaves in all instances - and communicates about what it does responsibly.
If you have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan with a long term vision of helping others in a way that integrates with the abilities and skills of your employee base, then it's easy to see how you can integrate communications about what you're doing in a specific instance.
If you don't have such a plan or vision, you may come across as an ambulance chaser. It may also become challenging to communicate clearly about your actions, when you haven't established a track record for being the company that believes in a cause.
Here's where it now becomes the responsibility of those who pass information on to vet their sources. This is not just about the credibility of the people in your network, although we agree that it does play a role in it.
It's about creating a process for yourself to verify the claims made. You could check the company Web site and social media presence - this puts the onus on updating and coordinating communications on the source/player involved.
This if you want to become a trusted source yourself, of course. I'm skeptical by nature, it means I seek opposing views on issues and challenge the information I receive. One of the reason you don't read too many product or service reviews here is that I rarely have the time to do the research I want to do when I get pitched a story or product.
Ideas for brands
There are many legitimate instances and examples of companies that pay off their vision by integrating community efforts into their communications. Is yours one of those? Regardless, I'm sure you want to be represented correctly in the news and online conversations.
How does a company make sure it's quoted correctly or what it does is reported with accuracy? Setting up a news area of your Web site that is more substantial than just listing news releases and a press kit is a start. Some other ideas for brands to integrate all marketing communications:
- make your news portal or home page really easy to navigate at a glance
- link all your outposts or social bookmarks in a visible place
- put processes in place to make decisions about what to share, faster
- be prompt in updating your site with the most recent information
- develop really simple sound bites that cannot possibly be misunderstood
- get your news out consistently in all communication outposts
- provide images, presentations, videos, and quotes in different formats for your employees and evangelists to use
Feel free to add more ideas of things you have done or seen a company do that have worked well.
Want greater accuracy, faster? Don't wait for a crisis to put processes in place that allow you to disseminate the right information in the right places to the people who want to communicate with you. This is also public relations and an increasingly important aspect of the news cycle.
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