Balancing traditional, new media is essential in crises

Managing and running a crisis communications effort is hard enough, but the task is getting trickier as agencies and companies work to find the right balance between the level of interaction with traditional and new-media outlets.

Managing and running a crisis communications effort is hard enough, but the task is getting trickier as agencies and companies work to find the right balance between the level of interaction with traditional and new-media outlets.

This year alone, JetBlue, Taco Bell, the entire pet food industry, the American Petroleum Institute (API), Virginia Tech, AT&T, and, most recently, toy manufacturer Mattel have all encountered a significant, lasting crisis.

In today's media environment, big, emerging crises are guaranteed to receive coverage from major print and TV outlets, but, more often than not, they will gain momentum through the blogosphere and other social media outlets. As a result, this has made bloggers an important and sometimes initial target for these outreach efforts.

When the API wanted to explain the reasoning behind skyrocketing gas prices earlier this year, it made bloggers a key focus of its outreach. And when AT&T looked to address issues being raised about iPhone activations, it spent a good chunk of time monitoring and speaking to bloggers.

But some companies still rely on traditional media outlets to get their message out. When Mattel recently recalled nearly 1 million toys because they contained dangerous levels of lead paint, it decided to put its focus on dealing with the more traditional channels.

While management and senior PR pros are likely to plot a company's crisis strategy, ultimately the people in the trenches are the ones who will prioritize the incoming queries and the outgoing information.

For agencies and brands, finding the right people to handle the balance between new and traditional media when promoting positive news is a major focus. Because of the way in which coverage of a crisis can spread, finding people who understand that balance in terms of managing a crisis should be of equal significance.

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