Reality of Communication

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    One bad quote can send you scrambling for crisis management

    Boy, was last week a tough one for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. With his city stung by a 20-inch blizzard, its sixth-worst on record, and massive delays in cleaning up the mess, “Mayor Mike” managed to put his foot in his mouth for what will likely not be the last time in his political career.

    Saying Monday that #snowloko (Editor’s note: the Twitter shorthand for a huge snowstorm) was “inconvenient,” while urging New Yorkers to see a Broadway show (seemingly oblivious to the fact that millions of outer-borough residents were literally trapped in their homes — and would be for several days — because of his administration’s mismanagement and bungling of the cleanup effort) Bloomberg perfectly exemplified a new reality that is starting to emerge in crisis management in the digital age: words, much like images, can make or break you

    This quote, taken from a PR Breakfast Club blog post by Keith Trivitt, is a fine example of the reality described – the amazing damage potential of a thoughtless comment. I would argue, though, that this new reality is not just starting to emerge, but has been blossoming for quite some time and is at an all-time high due to the rapid and easy mass communication opportunities provided by social media and mobile devices with unparalleled levels of Internet access.

    With masses of E-reporters, both amateur and professional, constantly searching for the next attention-grabbing headline, a poor choice of words by your sleepy CEO on his way out the door could easily be broadcast and re-broadcast, circulated throughout the Web, and end up in eyeshot of a sizable number of your stakeholders before the next morning.

    Doesn’t sound fun? The only way to prevent this type of incident is to make sure every member of your organization is aware of the impact that even seemingly insignificant statements can have, and take the time to set up regular media training sessions to hone the skills of your communicators and leadership.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]