Companies are ahead of the game if they already have a strong social media presence, and if they're savvy about how to use those tools in a media crisis.
General Motors is using social media to respond to individual customers who are having problems because of the company's big recall over faulty ignition switches. They have won over some unhappy car owners because of their response.
Some companies also have “dark sites," or alternative websites that they prepare in advance and activate in a crisis. This allows them to post information about the crisis while not disrupting their business-as-usual websites. The sites allow the company to get its side of the story out directly to the public, without being filtered by the media.
The reporter assigned to cover your story may not know anything about you or your industry, or even understand the right questions to ask. That increases the risks of errors, which could be damaging to your company or organization.
Many traditional news outlets just don't have the time or the resources to do the research on complicated issues. They have fewer editors to check reporters' work. Your best defense is to provide as much explanation and background information as possible.
At the same time, journalists are under a lot of pressure to get something online or on the air fast, which increases the possibility that wrong information gets published.
People who are not journalists, and who don't know what they're talking about, become instant channels for information during a crisis, with Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook posts.
Some of them may have an agenda that is harmful to your company. Many just add their opinions, and unfortunately, the public will latch on to something juicy or salacious, even if it’s not the truth.
With social media, rumor and misinformation can spread fast and spin out of control
Companies and organizations are creating policies that spell out what’s appropriate and what’s not in terms of using of social media at work, and making sure everyone understands the rules.
It may be acceptable, even encouraged, for employees to share positive news on their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. And their first instinct in a crisis may be to put something up online.
In a media crisis, however, when you’re trying to contain information and make sure it comes from official spokespeople, the last thing you want is unauthorized leaks.
Some things are hard to stop, like a rogue employee who decides now is the time to share some damaging or confidential information. In the most severe cases, like defamation, the consequences can include termination.