In a world that operates at the speed of Send, your day can go from “Awesome!” to “Oh, sh!t!” at the push of a button. Maybe your phone just lit up with the first news alerts connecting a product you sell with injury or even death and suddenly your company is a hashtag. maybe somone just posted an angry review of your company on Yelp! and you’re getting queries from a local reporter smelling their big break. Or maybe your CEO just said or did something on background that immediately went public — and viral.
Whatever the situation, your first instinct is likely something along the lines of, “I gotta do something to get ahead of this bad news story — and I gotta do it now!“
Don’t do it.
Breathe, Assess, Orient…
On the best of days, we are awash in a flood of information that threatens to drown us. When an unexpected wave crashes over us, it can pull us out to sea with little warning. Rather than diving into the surf and fighting the tide, take time to brace yourself against the oncoming waves. Paddle out a bit, then straddle your board and find your rhythm. Choose the right moment to pop and ride safely to shore without drinking a Neptune cocktail.
To translate the metaphor into action, select a couple relevant articles or transcripts and save them in a file format that allows you to mark them up. Read them all the way through once, then read them four more times — each time with an eye for a different thing. (If you are not a digital native or just prefer tactile to electronic, feel free to print a copy and go to town with some colored hi-liters.)
Take another breath. Then set aside your assumptions about “good” and “bad” and read it again. This time as you go, highlight the facts. These are the items that are verifiably accurate — even if they are unfavorable to your or your organization. Code them GREEN.
Errors in Fact
Take another breath. Keeping your assumptions about “good” and “bad” set aside, read it again and highlight the errors in fact. These are the items that are verifiably inaccurate and may warrant clarifiation or correction. Code them RED.
Take another breath. At this point it’s ok to start looking at the “good” and “bad” again, but with a simple yet sifnificant twist to “favorable” and “unfavorable.” Put your “favorable or unfavorable” filters in place and ready it again. Highlight the comments and quotations that are favorable from the perspective of your organization. Code them PURPLE (or some other warm color).
You guessed it: take another breath and read it one more time. This time, highlight the comments and quotations that are unfavorable from the perspective of your organization. Code them ORANGE (or some other cautionary color that contrasts with RED but doesn’t disapear from the page). At this point you will be coloring in whatever is left, but don’t take the wasy way out. Be sure to read it as you go.
…then Grab Your Board and Start Paddling
When an unexpected swell comes your way, you are going to get wet no matter what you do. Rather than diving right in and risk being pulled under, prepare yourself to ride the waves.
Things may not be as bad as you first think, but even if they are, taking a few minutes to get oriented won’t hurt you. Plenty of people will be running around either muttering or shouting, “This is bad. This is really, really bad.” Your job is to put the situation in perspective so even of the situation is really, really bad, you can help those around you keep their heads.
What you will have in your hands after doing an initial content analysis is a guide to inform your engagement strategy.
This hip pocket content analysis method will help you identify the hard facts, even if the are ugly, so you know what you are dealing with. It will help you identify and prioritize any errors in fact that need correction (and perhaps even a couple that don’t!). And it will give you a sense of who is saying and thinking waht about you and your organization.
You can download this guide and other useful tools from our Resources tab above.
Guest Writers Welcome!
If you are interested in writing and publishing on a topic related to CBL, drop us a line. We’ll work with you to refine your ideas and include you as a by-line contributor to the Hard NoCs blog.
Cliff holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in leadership. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he completed operational deployments to Fallujah, Iraq and Kandahar and Helmand, Afghanistan. He has led multi-national and inter-agency teams including approximately one year on loan from the Corps as Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. He also directly advised the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on public and media engagement regarding national security matters for two years as Special Assistant for Public Communication. Today he puts that experience to work helping people become the kind of leaders they would want to follow.