Someone asked the question if videos and their widespread publishing had been as pervasive when George Bush was at Yale as it is now, would he be president? The presumptive answer is no. That he would have been caught in the act and his embarrassment broadcast to the world to such a degree that he would be unelectable.
Well, George escaped those days while he was in college, but we are not escaping the impact of video today. This article from the the IndyStar highlights the dilemma that a great many companies and organizations will face soon if they haven’t already confronted it: unauthorized communication from or about the company over which they have no control and which can quickly and easily be put in the hands of thousands if not millions.
The ubiquity of video creation and instant publication via YouTube or other video sites represents a huge challenge for communicators. Here are my quick suggestions in determining the policies and strategies needed to deal with it.
1) Understand the situation. CEOs and organization leaders absolutely need to know what is going on here. Like the instant news world itself, the growing role of blogs in forming reputations and opinions, leaders cannot lead if they do not know the landscape. This is the fundamental principle of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It is all about intelligence–situational awareness and the smarts to know how to act on it. CEOs today (most in their 50s and 60s) cannot be expected to be conversant in the world of YouTube, Facebook, etc., and that means it in incumbent on todays’ communication managers within an organization to take the lead in providing that intelligence. Tell you the truth, I am a little sick of hearing PR people talking about “getting a seat at the table.” What they need to do is start leading their organization in understanding and adapting to the new world of public information and they will find themselves at the table without even trying.
2) Fight fire with fire. Reputation battles are going to be fought with video and in YouTube (and other sites) land. Know it, believe it. Be prepared to operate there. If you don’t know how to create instant videos and publish them to your sites in minutes or to the video sites, you better learn it and learn it fast. There are a rapidly increasing number of video capture and publishing tools available. One we think is very promising and that our company is working with is called Viditalk (www.Viditalk.com). Check them out.
3) Increase your situational awareness. Media monitoring is much more challenging than it used to be. The reason is the internet of course. Now almost everything that happens either starts here, is focused here or ends here. That is not to say that the mainstream media are not involved, but more and more the stories they cover start on the internet and then they pick them up which then further feeds the internet activity. So your media monitoring now needs to include or even focus on monitoring the internet content. There are a number of companies that are doing a good job of providing this kind of monitoring and some even provide it in one simple package. I just don’t see how any company or organization can operate in this environment without a pretty robust internet monitoring system.
4) Recognize that it is an antagonist world. I will be commenting more on this soon but I received complementary copies of two recent books relating to crisis management (a benefit of blogging!) and while I haven’t read them yet I will and comment on them in this blog. The point is both of them are focused on the antagonist environment we operate in. Why antagonistic? Because of the motives involved. The mainstream media’s overarching motive is to attract and hold an audience–and they do that by entertaining. That is frequently bad news for the people and organizations they cover–just tools in the process of doing their job. Bloggers similarly operate by generating traffic to their sites–controversy, vitriol, exxageration, misinformation, accusations–all play into the game. Activists exist for the purpose of attacking others. Politicians are continually on the lookout for a popular cause of harm being done–real or not–so they can be the white knight riding to the rescue of the victims and victimized public. And perhaps most fearful of all, plaintiff’s attorneys are entrepreneurs whose opportunity to cash in is dependent on finding or making demons out of ordinary companies, organizations and people. I know that is overstating it–but it is a rough, nasty world out there and those engaged in reputation management and crisis management had better understand it.