Anyone working in mass media, whether as a journalist, advertiser or public relations professional, is aware that volume and speed of content is king nowadays, and goes hand-in-hand with an increase in part-time and volunteer information providers, such as bloggers, vloggers and article contributors. In Two GeekWire weeks, three entrepreneurial lessons, a blogger who stepped in while the co-founders were on vacation said he created 41 posts in 40 hours.

This demand for volume and speed can lead to inaccurate reporting, and last week we saw a textbook case with the X-Surface news cycle (see Random Gamer Punks Major Blogs on XBox Rumors.) To demonstrate how easy it was to become a credible, anonymous source to gaming blogs, a gamer emailed several blogs from a Gmail account with entirely bogus information, claiming to be a Microsoft employee (see the visuals for this on Tumblr). It appeared on a Pocket-lint.com, then was eventually picked up by outlets as widely read as VentureBeat and CNET, citing Pocket-lint.com as the source of the news.

It’s easy to get annoyed at these outlets, but really it reflects the reality of today’s media environment and the pressure that individual information providers are under.

What does this mean to public relations professionals? We need to:

  • Make accurate information crazy easy to find and understand. This includes both making it easy to find on official websites and making the websites easy to find through social media and SEO. This also means that we need to post the information wherever our audiences are, especially where target reporters are. It’s okay to push text out on social media instead of trying to drive people to websites, if that’s in line with our audiences’ behavior.
  • Choose who we break high-interest stories with very carefully and provide them with information that is crazy easy to understand. It can sometimes be more effective to give an exclusive story to an outlet that other outlets repurpose news from than to broadcast a news release or host a press conference or call.
  • Plan for news leaks of real stories and have information that is crazy easy to find and understand ready to publish if news breaks.  If news breaks early on a true story that we were planning to announce at a later date, the worst thing we can do is let outlets run with it and refuse to acknowledge it until our planned announcement date, when it’s not news any longer. For all news that we think might leak, we should decide at the beginning of the announcement planning process what information we will share in the event of a news leak, with whom, and with what sources and delivery method.

What are your thoughts? Share in the comments. Thank you to Laura Jones, my coworker, for emailing the X-Surface hoax broadly within Waggener Edstrom.

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