There's an interesting article in this morning's San Francisco Chronicle that restates what experts like my colleague Johnathan Bernstein have been saying for years: social media has almost eliminated the time you have to react to a crisis.
In the article, Chronicle writer Carla Marinucci describes how the proliferation of social media sites has created a new environment. Social media sites and, in particular, Twitter, have the ability to almost instantaneously shape public opinion. This is changing how media relations firms respond to crisis.
The message is clear and is not new: if you are still using the old ways of getting your story out, you have already lost your battle to maintain your organization's reputation in a crisis.
My old friend and colleague, the late Dave Fowler, taught me ages ago that one of the problems is that we train our media staff in public relations but not in crisis communications. This was in the day when we were transitioning from the standard twice-daily press briefings to the new world of constant news feeds. CNN was the game changer then and those of us who understood this did a better job of communicating our side of the story.
Times change and crisis communications has become even more complex and more critical. So give some thought to how you're preparing your media team. One person who handles press releases was never sufficient and will definitely not meet the needs of a modern crisis. Identify a team to support your regular media staff and provide training in crisis communications. When reaction time is measured in minutes, you don't have time to do this when it really counts.