After the tragic Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport came a jaw-dropping error from a local TV station. Fictitious, racist names for the four Asiana pilots - intended, by someone, to be humorous -- were read and shown on-air. The names were approved by news producers, verified by a summer intern at the National Transportation and Safety Bureau, and typed by a station graphics employee before being read on-air by the news anchor. And then, it went viral.
In the Internet Age, everyone is a newscaster with the power to blast anything around the world. Good or bad news. Real or fake. Employees, customers, interns and passers-by all have cameras. Accuracy is often sacrificed in favor of speed.
As a leader with time-sensitive, critical decisions to make, how can you avoid getting caught off-guard by company news?
Set up Google Alerts Google Alerts let you know when something is posted about your company, executives or products. If negative news hits, you can fight the fire quickly and accurately--but only if you know about it.
Google Yourself Google Alerts don’t catch everything. Get in the habit of Googling your company name, your name, your product name, and so on. Use Google Chrome’s incognito window, because it strips out most of the personalized results Google will serve you otherwise. That way, your search results look more like what someone else might see, instead of what Google thinks you want to see.
Fresh Eyeballs Like the news producers at KTVU, you and your team are likely too close to the prickly project or issue you're working on. Hire a public relations agency to help monitor your industry and spot trouble before it strikes. My accountant, operations director and intern have all added eye-opening perspective before we’ve issued press releases, blogs, or other important communications.
Who’s Responsible? If your team regularly posts to social media or monitors what’s being said about your company, make sure someone is responsible for taking immediate action when it hits the fan. If no one’s responsible, you’ll get a lot of shoulder-shrugging and finger-pointing when what you need is damage control.
Where are the Exits? Surprises are great at birthday parties, but in business they’re not much fun. Large companies often have crisis communications staff or agencies on speed-dial. You don’t need to go that far, but you’ve got to have a plan. Anticipate all the worst-case things that could affect your company. Plan a response for each one, document the plan, and make sure everyone knows it.
The news you need to know isn’t always taking over your Twitter feed or written on the teleprompter for the anchor to read. If you aren’t on top of the news about your company, you might end up underneath it.