Digital and Online Now Main Source Of News

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    What does this shift mean for your own crisis management efforts?

    I don’t think anyone will be surprised when I say that most people get their news online today, with a massive number neglecting traditional reporting in favor of social media.

    In 2000, about half of all Americans used the internet. Today, with smartphones and home internet connections available in almost every corner of the country, that number is more than 9 in 10.

    This pervasiveness has touched nearly every aspect of our lives, including the way we stay on top of current events. According to a recently published Pew Research Center report, Americans are consuming news on the internet more than ever. Of the 9,220 U.S. adults that Pew interviewed between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, 2020, more than 8-in-10 (86%) said they get their news from a smartphone, computer or tablet “often” or “sometimes,” with 60% falling into the “often” category.

    This quote, from the Allconnect blog, demonstrates just how many actually are consuming news online. With more than eight in ten choosing to get their news on the internet, it seems clear where your focus should fall when it comes time for crisis management and response. With this rise in online news consumption comes the ability for important stories and neglected causes to cut through the clutter or evade the powers-that-be to make it on the public’s radar. Unfortunately, it also gives the enemies of good reputation management, things like rumor, biased reporting, and anonymous critics, an easy foothold. In fact, a Pew study from 2020 revealed that users who relied most on social media for their political news may be less informed than other groups, with only 17% of this specific group recording “high political knowledge” scores, compared to 41% or higher for those using print, radio, or news websites and app.

    So, what does this all mean to your own reputation management and communications efforts?

    1. You need to speak to people where they want to listen, and today this means online or directly to their preferred device.
    2. Your communications need to be stronger than ever before, because the rumor mill is working overtime and there are armies of trolls working to feed it every day.

    It’s a tightrope, as your haters are waiting to pounce on one side while you dance to convince the fence sitters that you aren’t out there doing evil. Oh, and don’t forget the random trolls throwing curveballs to switch things up. However, navigated carefully, the internet and social media can be tremendous assets that actually amplify and spread your message, even when more “traditional” channels have failed.

    Good luck.

    [Erik Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy.]

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