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in the red

The Need For Speed

We introduce our next guest blogger of our monthly series on the 25th of every month, in celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, Michael Pranikoff, emerging media director for PR Newswire.

Michael Pranikoff, Global Director of Emerging Media at PR Newswire, is responsible for educating PR Newswire staff and customers about the role emerging media in marketing / communications.  Michael is also involved in the development of products and services for PR Newswire in the area of emerging media.  Michael joined PR Newswire in 1998. Prior to joining PR Newswire, Michael worked for MacNeil / Lehrer Productions which produces the PBS NewsHour. Michael graduated from Syracuse University.  Michael maintains profiles across many social networks and social media outlets, connect with him at http://card.ly/MichaelPranikoff.

As I write this, I’m speeding though Germany on the high-speed ICE train from Hamburg to Berlin.   I just finished a two-day tour of speaking and throughout this time, I’ve been working on a piece about managing corporate identity in a crisis situation.

Speed has been the underlying theme to just about everything in the past few days.  The speed of our communications and the reactions to those messages are faster – and travel further — than they ever have before.

Since the 1950s, when the first press release ran across a wire service (PR Newswire – my employer), the pace of communications has been rapidly changing.  Just 20 years ago we all were just getting acquainted with email.  Today, we can’t go anywhere without it.

It’s important we listen effectively and react or communicate quickly and efficiently.  Unfortunately, that seems like an impossible thing to do for many organizations.

In my discussions around the world with communications professionals, there is always a sense of frustration at how long it takes to get a message together and push it out the door.   I’ve heard countless stories about how a news release is written, sent around for approval, and two days later it’s returned as a completely different version  with a few more messages and several hundred words longer.    If this is really the process, then how do we react in a crisis situation?

We’ve all seen examples, where it takes days for a company to react to a situation publicly.  Does this sound familiar? This just won’t do anymore.   Communications professionals today must be empowered to communicate quickly. In order to do that, we must earn the trust of the corporation.

One way to gain this trust is to design a program that makes it easy for our peers and superiors to see that we know what we are doing.  Design a flow chart that shows the steps to take when responding to something, the channels to use, and when to step back and examine further.

The best example of this that I’ve seen comes from an unlikely source – the United States Air Force.   In reality, it shouldn’t be surprising that they would come up with a process. What is more surprising is that they’ve been so public and transparent with it, and I applaud them for it.

There are still other stunning examples of companies and organizations that have been responded quickly and effectively to kill a potential crisis situation.  Last year, the Transportation Security Administration was able to thwart a potentially damaging story in a matter of hours when a mommy blogger posted a story entitled “TSA Agents Took My Son”.  In less than half a day – lightning speed for almost any organization – TSA was able to research the situation and use proper channels (in this case, their blog) to combat this false story.

As my high-speed train starts to slow down to approach Berlin, I’m reminded that while we need to quickly react and respond today, TSA shows us that it only works when the right analysis has been done.

Having a process will immensely help, and I encourage everyone to think with L.A.S.E.R precision: Listen. Analyze. Strategize. Engage. Repeat.

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