Rumors fly fast and far on social media and the Internet. Official communicators representing the response agencies or major organizations involved in a response are no longer the primary providers of information about the event. That role has shifted to the public, to those who are witnessing it, involved in it, experiencing it and certainly sharing it. We can no longer be the first to provide most, if not all, response information. But, official voices still have a very critical role: rumor management.
Want to see how it is done? Check out FEMA's Hurricane Sandy website: http://www.fema.gov/sandy. Scroll down a bit to see the Rumor Control section. Personally, I think the site could be designed a bit better, a little less linear in style. Allowing viewers to quickly spot the Rumor Control section is very important.
Another example is the news site of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. The Fact Check section is prominently featured on the front page of the site. When news coverage of LADWP or blogs about the agency provide false, misleading or incorrect information, LADWP is quick to provide the correct information and point out the error. This does two very important things: it prevents the rumors or misinformation from getting too much of a head of steam and two, it sends a message to those who would pass on that information that they should be careful to be accurate because DWP will correct them. That makes it one of the best media management strategies around.
Setting up a rumor control operation is not difficult. I'll be talking more about that here in the near future. But what it does take is a commitment to monitor, to make certain the communicators have unfettered access to response information, and that approval processes don't prohibit fast responses. OK, so I guess it is difficult.