A ‘timely’ release in the social media age (2009)

Social media means much more than just Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It has changed what ‘timely’ means when we talk about ‘accurate and timely’ release of information.

The general public expects much more information and transparency from organizations now, and the new norm is that information is released in real-time as it is happening.

In my opinion, that is where the big challenge is for our profession.

I got thinking about this topic when I read LTC Paul Fitzpatrick’s blogpost about the Fort Hood shootings and the first comment by LTC (Ret) Fred Wellman.  Here is a portion of his comment:

“A number of  us had a very robust discussion on the lack of info flowing on my FB page that day and I got a very direct and pointed note from one of our colleagues at OCPA that I was being “unhelpful” and then a crowing note later after they announced the shooter was still alive (8 hours after they knew that) about how DINFOS 101 showed us to wait until we had accurate info. This is a ridiculous comment from PAO’s today. The speed of social media means we can’t keep waiting for info. You put out what you have as fast as possible. “

So all of us are taught that the release of information is done so in a ‘timely and accurate’ way, but the problem is that ‘timely’ is a subjective term.

Timely to you might mean 8 hours, but timely to me might mean right now.

Social Media has impacted the rest of mainstream media because in general, ‘timely’ in 2009/2010 means right now, real-time, as it is happening.

This is important to all organizations, just ask Domino’s Pizza.

But it is even more important for large organizations like the Army during a time of crisis – when large numbers of people are actively and frequently searching for information.

In the Social Media age, I would agree that it means that you “put out what you have as fast as possible.”

If we aren’t giving it to them as it is happening, then other people who are probably less informed will be and that misinformation can be spread to thousands with the click of a mouse.

I understand those that want to fight the extreme quickness that social media brings, but timely/accurate has always been a balancing act.

I’d much rather be giving out bits of information as it happens, even if there isn’t much to give,  rather than leave it to anyone with or without an agenda to do so.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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