Crisis Management: The Future of News and How to Prepare For it: crisis communications
The Greensboro, NC, newspaper News & Record is experimenting with interactive news reporting on the Internet, Fox Cable News with its pro-America stance eclipses competition, Internet bloggers become significant, the network newscast audience shrinks, and so does newspaper readership. So, whither the news business and how should you as a business leader adapt?
First some predictions, the easy ones:
Ubiquitous News – News on demand has been predicted for decades and now technology is permitting it. We’ll want/need/expect access to the news wherever we are whenever we want it. Just as Global Positioning Satellites can tell you where you are around the world, eventually news will reach the most remote location.
Interactive news – The Internet and especially blogging give us the expectation of being able to say our peace independently, talk back, and, sometimes, influence the news media. The coming News & Recordinteractive news addresses that expectation. It will be fascinating to see how readers respond. Major news outlets already have weblogs for their writers or broadcasters to dialogue with the audience.
Broadcast news with a point of view – We already subscribe to national newspapers and magazines that see the world as we do, and Fox News’ success shows there’s an appetite for attitude on TV. (I once chastised Fox for jingoism; a friend disagreed, and emailed “Fox Rules!”)
In spite of the above, I believe much of what lies ahead will be “back to the future.” People will still demand:
Primary news sources – As fragmented as we are, we are still a community and, especially during times of crisis and major events, we want a national “water cooler” to gather around for a definitive look at what is happening. Cable news and websites will give running commentary, but most of us will still want a specific source for the consolidated truth of the day. Evening newscasts and daily newspapers will survive.
Solo network news anchors – I think anchor teams rarely succeed on major network newscasts (NBC’s Huntley Brinkley Report 1956-1970 being the magnificent exception) because co-anchor chemistry is hard to achieve and predict, and, not really needed in a serious 30-minute newscast. I can’t believe CBS-TV CEO Les Moonves is seriously considering the multi-anchor format and I bet he won’t do it.
Trusted news outlets – Many will accept news with attitude like Fox’s, but no one tolerates deception. People do not brook major mistakes like CBS’s mis-reporting of the Bush National Guard record or the outright lying of The New York Times’s Jayson Blair. Reputation counts. Therefore the power of bloggers and independent Internet sources will be in proportion to their reliability. (By the way, do you find it interesting that The Times cleaned house at the top while CBS cut only middle management? Not very reassuring, is it?)
So, Mr. and Ms. Business Leader, what does all this signify to you? You must put on your “running shoes.” I suggest two goals for surviving in the new media world:
First, be able to react within minutes, not hours or days, to significant news inquiries. High speed news gathering pre-ordains that a reputation built over years can be roadkill in hours if you cannot provide critical information rapidly. You must convey your side before the reporter locks in on a particular perception of the story. Beware the easy out of “no comment.”
Second, be equally fleet-footed with all internal audiences. It is shortsighted to act and speak reassuringly to outsiders including the media while leaving in the dark those who depend upon your leadership. They must know what is happening, why, and what you are doing about it. For all the importance of dealing with the press effectively I believe internal communication is the real Achilles Heel. Ignoring it can cripple you.
Now, if you please, hand me the newspaper.