Thursday, August 25, 2011

News Release: What is more Important? Timeliness or Accuracy

In a recent discussion with a group of executives, the issue of timely press releases was raised.  Some in the group felt that while we endeavour to be timely to frame the crisis, others felt that it is important to ensure accuracy which usually takes time.  Hence, the group was divided on the relative importance of timeliness versus accuracy.

To guide the discussion, I shared the following perspective.  I told the Group that the answer to their dilemma was in understanding (a) stakeholder behaviour towards news; and (b) the psychological concept of primacy/ recency effects.

Stakeholder Interest in News.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that unless an issue directly impacts them, stakeholder interest is short-lived and dependent on whether there are “newer” more interesting developing news.  As a norm, from my observations, interest in an issue (in both Main Stream and Social Media) usually peaks between 12 to 24 hours and thereafter declines significantly beyond 48 hours.

First Impressions.  Based on psychological studies, stakeholders’ strongest memories of an issue will be either the first or most recent “facts” he or she receives.   In the context of an issue in which the stakeholder has no interest, he is therefore unlikely to be on the look-out for more facts on the issue.  Hence, it is a natural assumption that the organisation’s first response is what he or she will remember making it more crucial.

With these two premises in mind, I then opined that the balance between accuracy and timeliness must be seen along a time continuum.  In the early stages of a crisis, the need for timeliness takes priority over accuracy.  This then gradually changes when we cross the 24 hour mark where accuracy takes priority.  Thus, both groups are correct depending on the time continuum they were referring to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Congratulations ICOR!

ICOR (International Consortium for Organisational Resilience) has been awarded accreditation status for its certificate programmes by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute).  As the Singapore equivalent of SPRING (and the British's Standards Institute), ANSI's accreditation recognises the quality of ICOR's Business Continuity Management (BCM) programmes.  With this accreditation, ICOR is the only training and professional certification body in USA to be granted this special honor.

Organisations and individuals in Singapore seeking professional training in Crisis Communication can now confidently undertake ICOR's CM2050 Crisis Communication Planner Course with the knowledge that the course meets international standards.

As ICOR's Singapore trainer, I congratulate ICOR on this significant milestone.

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Course Description: Crisis Communication Planer (CS IL CSM 2050)

An organization in crisis faces many grave threats. Employees can be in physical danger. Buildings can fall. Customers can be lost. But the most serious threat is and always will be the threat to the organization’s most important asset – its reputation. To protect the organization from reputational threats requires careful, thoughtful, detailed planning and a methodology for inculcating a culture of organizational crisis preparedness. In this two-day seminar, you will learn how to prepare the organization for inevitable threats to reputation, execute the crisis communications plan, then, when the crisis has passed, assess and do what must be done before the next threats occur. Attendees earn a certificate as Crisis Communications Planner.

News Release: Selection as a Guest Contributor for Icon Media Group's Professional Blog

I am happy to announce my selection as a Guest Contributor to Icon Media Group's professional blog.  My selection as a Guest Contributor is a recognition of my thought leadership in the area of crisis communications and my contributions to the industry as a whole.

My first contribution is an article explaining the reason for the current ineffectiveness of Strategic Communications.  Having observed that current approaches to strategic communications uses Social Media as an ancillary communication channel, I explained that the fundamental mode of information dissemination has changed from traditional Main Stream Media to Social Media. Thus, unless organisations re-structure and place Social Media at the epi-center of their communications strategy, any communication strategy will be ineffective at best and damaging at worst.

Icon Media Group is a full service, communications consultancy, delivering Purposeful; Integrated and Uncompromising communication solutions. As experts in Communications Strategy, Icon Media Group empowers enterprises with Total communications capabilities to prepare for and to best manage tomorrow╩╝s communication challenges, from Strategy to Execution.

I look forward to a mutually beneficial working relationship with Icon Media Group in serving the communication needs of businesses.

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For clarifications, visit http://www.cwfongandassociates.com.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strategic Communication and the Era of Social Media: An Alternate Definition


Although much has been written about Strategic Communications (SC), unfortunately there is little agreement amongst its many practitioners. Some practitioners view SC as a concept of facilitating communication to allow an organisation to attain its long-term strategic goal, while other practitioners view SC as a process to co-ordinate an organisation's internal and external communication processes. To me, I believe that SC is all of the above and more. Allow me to explain ...

As I advocated in one of my earlier posting, in the Era of Social Media, organisations now operate in an environment where practically anybody can create and disseminate “news” contents. These “Citizen Journalists” can now galvanise populace support as widely and as effectively as any big budget news organisations. Additionally, the Internet's ability to provide instantaneous news on a 24/7 basis, consolidated and indexed (via intelligent search engines), has made it the primary source of information. The convergence of media technology has therefore fundamentally altered the way individuals receive news and gather information and has created the dimensions of User Generated Contents and Rallying Tools.

Together, these two new dimensions has effectively changed the information environment. Information is now becoming as valuable as prime real estate where top-search engine rankings and positive (or negative) reviews on influential blogs can have tremendous impact an organisation's fortunes. In view of this, I have defined Strategic Communications as a social media centric process of managing an organisation's communications to its stakeholders via aligning (and leveraging where possible) communication channels to deliver a consistent Theme to achieve a strategic end state.

Unfortunately, many organisations today use Social Media as an ancillary communication channel and continue to communicate to their stakeholders via a multitude of out-dated and ineffective channels. To their credit, these organisation have acknowledged the need to have a consistent message and have adopted SC as a process to co-ordinate and align their various communications channels. Regrettably, what these organisations are finding is that, even with SC, they are losing the communication battle as Social Media continues to out-flank and out-manoeuvre them at every turn. This is happening because Social Media is rapidly becoming the de facto news and information platform and without a Social Media centric communication platform, these organisations will never be able to effectively communicate their Themes and Messages.

Thus, organisations seeking to effect SC must first understand and accept the increasing impact of Social Media on the new information environment and place SC at the center of its Corporate Strategy where communication can then be used to deliver either supporting or 1st order effects and add to the organisation's bottom line. Given Social Media's assured dominance of the information environment in the near future, Social Media's central role in future communications is inevitable and organisations need to restructure now to effectively deal with it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crisis Communication: Fatal Police Shooting Sparks London Riots 2011

On 6 August 2011 the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in Tottenham, by London's Metropolitan Police, set the stage for a series of riots which have since spread to other areas like Wood Green, Enfield Town, Ponders End and Brixton.

Since the start of the riots, officials have been proactive in managing the situation by urging calm by committing to an open and transparent investigation into the shooting. Officials have essentially adopted a theme of legitimacy where they are telling stakeholders that they have a system to ensure that justice will be served. Unfortunaetly, as evidenced by the spreading of the riots, the theme of legitimacy does not seem to be working. Additionally, negative news continue to dominate main stream media and social media accounts of the riots, its devastation and its impact on London.

From a crisis communication perspective, there are 2 lessons which crisis communicators can learn from this crisis – value of a Stakeholder Analysis and the need to push positive news.

Stakeholder Analysis. As I have constantly advocated, a proper stakeholder analysis to identify the conditions, attitudes and attributes of the target audience is a necessary first step in developing an effective crisis communication plan. This is because the target audience's response to the selected theme is predicated on the “vulnerabilities” derived from the target audience's conditions, attitudes and attributes. In the case of the London Riots, current and historical mistrust of authority and recent allegations of biased police actions against the target audience make the legitimacy theme inappropriate at best and a furthing rallying point at worse. In my opinion, the authorities could have adopted an alternate theme of “bandwagoning” by getting key communicators from within the target audience to demonstrate restraint and call for others to follow suit.

Push Positive News. An Internet search of “London Riots 2011” returns endless negative postings. Anyone searching the Internet for news on the riots will get the impression that the riot are inevitably much worst than it is by protraying (a) the riots are out of control; and (b) everybody in the affected areas are against the police. What the authorities need to do is to push out positive news of their own. News of acts of heroism by police officers or stories of citizens banding together to stop the riots. Such postive news will go a long way in balancing cyberspace's portrayal of the riots and in my opinion, will go a long way in helping restore law and order.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crisis Communication Plan: Use of Social Media

In a recent presentation on the 5 Essential Elements of Crisis Communication in the Era of Social Media (i.e. (a) open; (b) timely. (c) 100% truthful; (d) Internet present; and (d) broadly communicated), one of the executives asked if broadly communicated was necessary if the crisis was developing only in cyberspace. His perspective was that, as crisis communicators, we should not be unnecessarily enlarging the number of “fronts” on which to fight the battle by involving the main stream media.

My response was this.

In the era of Social Media, there is an increasing overlap between social and main stream media. Often, what starts out in social media, is picked-up by main stream media and reported. A prime example is the Mar 2011 incident involving the picture of a maid carrying the field-pack of a Singapore Armed Forces' Full-Time National Serviceman. In this example, the crisis began when a reader on STOMP (Straits Time Online Mobile Print) found the picture on Facebook and uploaded in onto the website. Within days, the picture went viral and was carried in all major main stream media. This is but one example.

Hence, while I agree with the executive that we should limit the fronts where we fight so as to concentrate our efforts, we need to acknowledge that social media and main stream media are becoming one and the same. With main stream media journalists increasingly tapping on social media for the next “big news”, by confining our response to a negative blog posting or online mention to only social media, we are effectively conceding the information initiative and this makes it harder for us to frame a developing crisis in our favour.

Thus a crisis communication plan must be disseminated as broadly as possible.

(For more information on crisis communication training for your organisation, contact www.cwfongandassociates.com)