Bad E-Reporting a Crisis Management Concern

Sections of this topic

    Dishonesty and lack of fact checking can threaten your reputation

    The skyrocketing popularity of amateur e-reporting has led to good things, as stories that would never have otherwise seen the light of day draw public attention. Unfortunately, it’s also resulted in an increase in unverified, untrue reporting as well, often to the detriment of whichever organization’s been caught in the crossfire.

    Reader Adam Nowlin shared the story of a Reddit post that, according to the author, contained pictures of health code violations at a Mimi’s Cafe in Maryland. The images drew thousands of comments on the popular site, and, according to a Baltimore Sun article by Richard Gorelick, led to an inspection by the local health department:

    Responding to a barrage of inquiries about sanitary conditions at Mimi’s Cafe in Columbia, the Howard County Health Department on Wednesday inspected the restaurant and gave it passing marks.

    Lisa M. de Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the health department, said that the food-safety division routinely responds to complaints or tips from the public. In this instance, the department received about 15 emails regarding the restaurant in less than 24 hours, which is highly unusual, de Hernandez said.

    The inspection Wednesday “found nothing critical that would endanger the public or cause us to close the restaurant,” de Hernandez said.

    The Reddit poster who started it all eventually admitted the photos of bugs and grimy conditions were not recent, which leads us to our point – even if your organization is squeaky-clean, bad reporting can STILL put your reputation in jeopardy. E-reporters are hungry for eyes, and if falsifying or dramatizing stories to grab virtual points on Reddit, Facebook, blogs, and even view-hungry news sites is what it takes, then many will leap happily right off that ethical bridge.

    Today’s crisis management plans need to include the very real chance that a reporter, amateur or professional, will smear your brand. The more prepared you are, the faster you can react, and the better your chances of getting the real information in front of your stakeholders in time to save your reputation.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]