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Don’t jump (the gun) into the line of fire

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Don’t jump (the gun) into the line of fire

by Irene Gomez, Corporate Media

Just like a marriage proposal, sometimes, we get overexcited about the news and just want to shout it out to the world – well, to anyone within earshot anyway.  We just can’t contain ourselves.  This also holds true for news connected to our business.  Some of us start to envision dollar signs and products flying off the shelves almost immediately!

However, there is something to be said about restraint when it comes to sharing news with your public.  Sometimes, clients wait too long to respond to crisis situations or take advantage of stories in the news they could use to help tell their own story. Waiting too long can mean a missed opportunity or, in some cases, a damaged reputation.  Then, there’s the flip side: speaking before you’re ready.  This can be dangerous.

Case in point: remember the headlines that appeared immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision on the health care law that President Obama was pushing for? The Associated Press, in its bid to be first to carry the news, and citing several media organizations, reported incorrectly that the law’s central provision had been struck down.  As a result, President Obama initially thought that the mandate had been struck down.  According to MSNBC, “For about 40 seconds, the President believed that his landmark, legacy defining legislative accomplishment had been gutted.”

In the end, the Associated Press reported that one outlet issued an apology, with an embarrassing admission that it had not waited to report on the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate. As PR professionals, we are the first responders that journalists turn to for sources and sound bytes and it is our job to assist in a timely manner.  More importantly, in today’s fast-paced media landscape, we must always be sure to present factual and accurate information to best serve our clients and the public.

Your news item could be something as amazing as getting an endorsement from the Pope, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have to know when the best time is to share such breaking news.

Right Time, Right Place

There are many obvious reasons as to when right time is to break your news, one being that you are contractually bound to stay zipped until you get the green light to move.  Or you find yourself at the risk of a lawsuit.  Think, for example, about a merger between two companies – talking about it before the plans are officially finalized may just impact the deal in a negative way and add to uncertainty in the market.  Any media plans, including campaigns to be rolled out will also suffer.

But that’s not the only reason to keep quiet about big news. Everything has a right time and place, and it takes careful planning and consideration to announce it.  If done poorly, your big news could fall on deaf ears, and you’ll have to work twice as hard to spread the news or worse still, undo the damage.

Do your research and figure out the best time to use social media and when to send emails out. People read emails or browse through Facebook at specific peak times, and if you don’t catch your target audience at the right time, they are likely to miss your news entirely.

Be Sensitive

Be aware of what’s going on around you and in the news before you release that all important news.  If you wake up to a huge earthquake that’s just struck the region, for sure, all the media channels would devote their time and space to report on the catastrophe for days to come. So be sensitive.  Perhaps this is not the best time to issue that press release or make an announcement. The last thing anyone wants to think about in such circumstance is some company telling them to get excited about their latest acquisition.

How much research do you do before sending out a message?

The game of PR and social media isn’t one for slow minded or slow acting individuals.  A 24-7 news cycle and the pace of the digital marketplace make it essential to perform quickly. It is important to stop, take a breath and survey the landscape before you send out that hastily written press release or tweet.

And, before you respond to viral situations or crisis circumstances, always allow yourself and your team a window of time to plan before launching your response. Make sure you know all the facts before you issue a public comment.  Comments made on social media. Facebook, Twitter and other social media make it very easy to say things that shouldn’t be said in public. So, beware.

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