Archive for December 13th, 2006

Why do some want to stop talking? The “long tail” of crisis communication.

December 13, 2006

Because the company I founded provides crisis communication technology to many of the world’s leading global companies and large government agencies, we are frequently on the inside of many of today’s headline stories. And we are in a position to observe and learn from what some of the best communicators in the world today are doing. We see the best and the worst.

One of the things we learned is that audience’s for websites on crisis events or major topics of interest do not go away quickly. We were surprised to learn that just because a story has slipped off the front page, indeed, out of the news media’s attention, it does not mean that stakeholders or interested members of the public have lost interest. The long tail of crisis communication shows that a remarkably strong audience continues to visit crisis event websites long after its “newsworthiness” has diminished.

We have documented this trend in a white paper I wrote over a year ago. You can read that white paper, called Keep on Talking here.

I write this because we continue to see incidences of communicators ignoring this or not caring about it. Recently we heard of one crisis site–for one of the largest news stories of the year–which was shut down even though 20,000 hits were still being registered each day. This is a site that received millions of hits, so in comparison the traffic seems light. But, the fact that 10,000 or more people are coming to this site every day seeking information about something with high relevance to them argues for continued communication. The rationale given was that the company had nothing new to say on the subject and the media were ignoring the information on it and writing their own spin on the story anyway. Yes, we want to yell loud enough so that it can be heard: But it is not just about the media.

I see this problem over and over and over and over (can you tell I am frustrated?) Crisis communicators continue to think it is all about communicating with the media. They do not seem to understand that we long ago entered the post media world of direct communication. As consumers of info, they participate in that world daily. But, the blinders go on when the start doing their “public relations” job.

Let me put it this way, if 10,000 or more people gathered outside the front door of your office each and every day, would you send out a spokesperson to talk to them? Especially since they are coming in large part because they think you have messed up their world in some way? Frankly, I don’t understand why this is so hard to see.