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How Crisis Communication Can Combat Misinformation in a Digital Age

Internet and other modes of communication is nearly instantaneous today.  Therefore, the need to quickly and actively mitigate a crisis before a significant amount of damage is done is an immediate necessity for all corporate entities.

As communication has become nearly instantaneous today, the need to quickly and actively address a crisis before an irreparable amount of damage is done is a necessity for any corporation.

Indeed, a recent blog posting by Advertising Age journalist Jack Neff claimed that social media can even sustain myths that have proven to be inaccurate. Certainly, the longer a situation is allowed to incubate before it is effectively addressed and contained, the more likely it is that damage will be irreversible - even fatal - to a corporation’s reputation.

How Quickly is Damage Done?

Nearly instantaneous communication is performed as quickly as the keys can be punched on a keyboard. Consider all of the internet’s social media and blogs and you will realize just how quickly damage can be done. Where is damage done first?  Here are some of the Internet’s most fertile breeding grounds for potentially damaging online chat:

* Twitter
* Youtube
* Influential blogs
* Facebook
* MySpace

While these are far from the only areas that can cause damage to a reputation, they are definitely some of the key areas requiring a response. These sites are not only extremely high in traffic, but they also make information, pictures, and videos available online immediately upon submission.

So, within minutes of a negative posting taking place, your stakeholders have the ability to search the web and read critical comment on these sites. The information may or may not be valid, but from a reputational standpoint it must be addressed.

Does Inaccurate Information Require Crisis Management?

If information is not accurate does a company still need to address it? The answer is a resounding “yes”. The days of ignoring something and hoping it goes away are long gone. Today, if an issue is ignored it is considered true until proven otherwise. This means that regardless of the validity of gossip or rumours floating around the web or elsewhere, corporate reputation management must be handled quickly and professionally.

A false report that is allowed to spread without any attempt to contain or reverse it can be a death sentence to an otherwise flourishing company. Because people love a juicy rumour - particularly one that sheds negative light on a reputable corporation or person - harmful reports travel at lightning speed. This means that you must have the ability to monitor and identify online comment, and the resources and people ready and able to respond to it.  Having this expertise to hand is essential as damage control must begin immediately to effectively protect the corporate reputation.

The fact is that “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply to public opinion of anyone that appears in the headlines of newspapers, blogs, or social media. And the truth is, if the information hits one area of the media, chances are it will quickly make its way to every other part of the media.

Seeking professional advice

The best advice is to seek out a specialist to handle corporate reputation management before you have the need for it. You never know when you will encounter an accident, incident, emergencyFree Web Content, or become someone’s unsuspecting target and need to be able to respond quickly and effectively. Protect your reputation and that of your company by having a skilled and experienced person on call in case a situation arises. You may never need them -  but you’ll certainly be glad they’re around if you or your company become the subject of unwanted internet chatter.

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Jonathan Hemus is the founder of Insignia Communications - -a consultancy specialising in corporate reputation management and crisis communication.  His experience in crisis management for a range of global corporations and public sector organisations has helped to protect and preserve many reputations. For regular insights into corporate reputation management, log on to Insignia’s blog,

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