Written by Chipo Mapungwana
Since the emergence of new media, the possibilities of how organisations can benefit from this wave have dominated the internet , organisations and marketing circles. Thus far, new media has been portrayed as the useful tool that it is. There are however, two sides to every coin. One of the main fears that many corporates have is that customers ,staff and outright strangers will post negative comments on their new media sites.
Regrettably, whether they are on the internet or not, organisations and many individuals have found themselves at the receiving end of on-line citizen journalists. Many companies are caught flat-footed when corporate crises happen and the crisis becomes the internet virus of the day. Clueless as to what to do, many companies will fumble and tumble to try to control on-line damage causes by crises.
How new media affects and can cause crises: Just a few case studies
- The unfolding David Petraeus scandal is being played out on Twitter, blogs, You tube, Facebook and many other new media channels. Just as videos and emails are being discovered, they are being efficiently deployed onto new media network sites to the chagrin and horror of the invincible CIA.
- Prince Harry’s explicit photographs while in Las Vegas on the 22nd August 2012 were published on-line and across the world causing him and the royal family great embarrassment. While the royal family wanted to stop the pictures from being published in British newspapers, some media houses felt that they had a duty to their readers to publish the pictures since millions of people had already seen them on-line. And they did.
- On February 23rd 2007 , videos of rats rampaging in a KFC fast food restaurant were uploaded on Facebook. More than 1000 blogs were created spreading the story and footage far and wide.
- On February 14th 2007, many airlines cancelled flights in eastern USA due to bad weather. One airline however decided to keep hovering in the skies in the hope of landing. Soon, horror stories of terrified passengers, over flowing toilets and crying children made their way onto social network sites and blogs around the world. This crisis cost the airline $41 million.
There are countless of stories of companies that have faced crises which have been inflamed by new media networks. The not so simple trick is to understand how social networks function and then decide how to prevent and prepare for any eventuality.
Key differences between New and Traditional Media
There are key differences that corporates need to understand between new media and traditional media.
Acts as a gate-keeper particularly for those companies that have strong relationships with media houses and can minimise the impact of their misdemeanours by influencing news editors to kill or tone down stories.
- Is targeted at specific news readers and communities.
- Is covered by professional journalists, well, most of the time.
- Is covered by journalists who have been trained to write in a certain way to woo and keep the readership of their publications.
- Is outbound communication in that the originators can never really tell if the stories and articles have been read and if they have been read by the right audience.
- Print and radio articles have space and time constraints. You can only fit so many words per column in a newspaper and so much audio in a minute of recording.
- Enables frequent and unlimited updates and is available all day and all night.
- There is no limit in terms of space on the internet and no barriers to internet use. Anyone with a computer, mobile phone and a camera is a journalist.
- Stories can be produced in different formats and content and the use of multimedia makes new media anyone’s playground.
- Stories can be linked to other related articles and company news.
- The internet is viral and interactive in nature and the comments are subjective and to a large extend, uncontrollable.
What organisations can do to prepare for crisis involving new media
- Firstly , you could try running, but you won’t get very far. What your stakeholders are saying about your company on-line cannot be ignored for long. So embrace new media and enjoy the party. There are a lot more advantages to new media for your business than there are disadvantages.
- Corporate communication must be enlarged to encompass both on-line and off-line functions and this should include an avenue for fans, customers, staff and user interactivity. No one ever deliberately sets out to trash anyone, unless they have been extremely annoyed by your company. Taking customers who are unhappy offline and resolving their problems directly will win you customers and fans for life.
- Acknowledge the importance of new media and make a deliberate plan for engagement. Many companies have incorporated fan pages as part of their online presence and strategy. Apple Inc and Dell, have learnt hard lessons about ignoring new media and have subsequently embraced their fans by encouraging fan interaction. Their research and new product development departments are benefiting immensely from this engagement.
- Adopt a new media crisis management model to combat online threats. This will allow you to manage prevailing issues, plan and prevent any foreseeable crisis and when the unfortunate does happen to have supporting on/off-line structures and communication strategies and tactics to control the crisis with the support of all your stakeholders.
Nothing is faster that bad news on the internet