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by Gerald Baron: Crisis and emergency communication strategies

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Tweet breaking news? How news organizations are struggling with this
February 09, 2012
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You are the broadcaster. More and more in crisis and emergency communication understand this--particularly those using social media and up-to-date highly interactive websites to distribute information. But, the various channels cause some dilemmas, particularly related to timing.

There's been a lot of talk lately about news organizations being careful about how they use Twitter. News Corp's Sky News just laid out some new guidelines for their journalists which prohibit retweeting other media outlets tweets.

And BBC's social media manager talks about the caution being taken by BBC in issuing breaking news stories first on Twitter. Turns out the real issue here is not competition (although that always factors in) but considering the fact that news now gets distributed through multiple channels. As the Poynter article's author Jeff Sonderman states: News organizations juggle a variety of platforms — Web, social, email, mobile, print and broadcast. They should be quick to tweet, of course, but also quick to do a lot of other things.

But what I really like is Jeff's very specific workflow guidelines he used when he was a DC reporter:

  1. File a quick news story for the website, perhaps just a sentence or two to get started.
  2. Tweet with a link to the story.
  3. Send a breaking news email alert, if warranted, with the link.
  4. Alert Web producers to the story’s availability for the home page and other featured spots.
  5. Update the story with more details and links to related information.
  6. Listen for the first wave of feedback through story comments and social media.
  7. Tweet again as updates are posted, and share to other social networks.

This is an excellent protocol and I'd suggested incorporating this into your communication plans. Web first--because ultimately that is where you want people to go for the most detailed and complete information and if it forever lags your social media channels, people will stop going there and you'll be limited to what you can carry on Twitter. But, use Twitter to alert people to the story and drive them to your site. Same with Facebook. Use email for breaking news alerts.

This is great advice, particularly for those communicators who understand that with today's tools they now need to think and act like reporters, editors, broadcasters. Because they are.

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