What does Twitter mean for crisis preparedness?

To my PR pals who can’t imagine how they can possibly find time to scan blogs or Twitter (one receives and reads five newspapers a day at the office), here’s yet one more reason to believe that it’s no longer discretionary to know what’s going on outside traditional media channels:  more people are getting their news from Twitter.  NPR’s Morning Edition is airing a story today about how Twitterers often get the scoop first, thanks to their facile fingers and ubiquitous mobile devices.

Twitter can be good news for marketers and PR folks who figure out how to use this tool and stay within the norms of Twitter culture and etiquette.  But it can also be bad news for PR folks who quickly find themselves fighting a tide of innuendo and misinformation.

Recent example:  Amazon changed the algorithm that delivered search matches, which made a large number of books, including many that are gay and lesbian-themed, fall lower in rankings.  Twitterers apparently erupted in outrage.  As reported in the New York Times on Sunday, April 19, Clay Shirky, adjunct professor at NYU’s grauduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, said on his blog that he regretted jumping aboard the Twitter accusation train.  He later concluded that the Amazon glitch was due to technology, and not anti-gay bias or conspiracy.

So what does this mean to PR staff, or organizations that care about their reputation?   At least one person should be facile at Twitter and able to jump into the fray to correct the record if need be.  If people are getting misinformation from Twitter, makes sense that you will have to reach them through their preferred method of communications.  A statement released to your local paper won’t do it.

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