Required Reading: Trends in News Consumption

The folks at Pew Research Center released a humdinger of study yesterday. If you know or work with someone that doubts that social, online and mobile are what will define the future of news, print this whole report out and give it to them.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The part you want to highlight is right here:

That’s right, a thirteen percent decrease in TV news viewing, a twenty-three percent decline for newspapers, a twenty-one percent decrease for radio news.

Online and mobile news? In just eight years, the percent of those surveyed who got news today from online or mobile sources ROSE from twenty-four percent to thirty-nine percent.

In Silicon Valley terms, they call that “hockey stick growth.” The crazy thing about the growth in social news consumption is that it builds on itself. As more and more people use it and share news on their social networks, more and more people will get used to finding news online. From the report (I added the emphasis):

The second major trend in online news consumption is the rise of news on social networks. Today, 19% of the public says they saw news or news headlines on social networking sites yesterday, up from 9% two years ago. And the percentage regularly getting news or news headlines on these sites has nearly tripled, from 7% to 20%.

The article continues for FIVE MORE PAGES. Demographic studies, specific breakdowns of types of media (cable news is declining, weekly magazines rising), attitudes toward news, consumption habits (Did you know the older you are the more likely you are to get your news on a set schedule? Younger folks graze throughout the day.), on and on and on! For folks counting on the media landscape continuing as it has over the last twenty years, well, the research isn’t describing a pleasant future. We should start integrating this knowledge today.

Social Media, Replacement Referees and Crisis Comms

For those of us addicted to football (American football, my overseas friends), the current season has been tough to deal with. Due to a contract issue, the National Football League has locked their referees out and have installed replacement refs to adjudicate the games.

The results have been, as anticipated, not pretty. At the end of this week’s Monday night game (for my football fans that’s typically the biggest game of the week), the Seattle Seahawks quarterback heaved a pass to the end zone, hoping to score on the final play and win the game. A Green Bay Packers player seemingly came down with the ball, which was then wrestled away by a Seahawks player. One of the replacement referees called the play a touchdown, another called it an interception. In either case, the game was over, and who won was contingent upon the referees call.

The refs ruled that the Seahawks won. The social media world subsequently exploded.

A number of Green Bay Packers players tweeted their displeasure.

You can see in the picture above how, after midnight on the East Coast, how large of a response that event generated. The reason I post on this is the following line in a TechCrunch article posted this afternoon:

[T]he point is that NFL players took to Twitter first to voice their displeasure, rather than talking to mainstream press on camera. The tide has changed for how people communicate, and this is a perfect example.

I think that anyone who has been paying attention to crisis communications has seen this shift taking place. It’s just really nice to see that in stark terms (with pictures!) on a topic that a wide majority of Americans are interested in.

Update from Heather Brink (devoted Packers fan): According to the Twitter blog, the play in question generated more than one million tweets, and TJ Lang (the most vociferous tweeter in this matter) had more than 150,000 retweets himself. Truly viral.

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication v2

I’ve been a big fan of the CDC’s Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication curriculum for a number of years. I even flew down to Atlanta once to get real, hands-on training on it. Developed in the aftermath of 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks, the CDC gathered many of the smartest, most intelligent people in the fields of crisis communications and risk communication and banged on the problem of how to push out life saving information in, essentially, no time. What came out on the other side was as close to cutting edge as you could get. And it held up pretty well, too. The lessons didn’t require much tweaking but over time, especially in today’s five-second news cycle, it needed a rewrite.

And now they’ve finally published the 2012 version. (PDF download)

I’ll be in Washington next week to receive the inaugural training, so keep an eye out for my livetweets from the NPHIC Symposium. In the meantime, check out some of the other amazing tools on CERC that the CDC offers, including archived webinars, training modules and best practice reports.

Twitter Best Practices for Media

I’m constantly amazed by how reporters are rewriting how their field uses social media. I’ve talked about it before, about reporters using Twitter to find sources for breaking news. Scary, I know.

But they’re no longer integrating Twitter into their daily routines by themselves anymore. Twitter recently hired Mark Luckie as Manager of Journalism and News, and within the last week or so, he made a number of recommendations for reporters on how to use Twitter more effectively. This is important not only because it shows how much Twitter has become a primary tool for the media today, but because, well, those recommendations are useful for us, too.

Lauren Indvik from Mashable summarized the best points for us, but check out the full article for more:

Tweet your beat
Don’t only post your own stories
Live-tweet events
Use hashtags
Use @mentions
Use the re-tweet button

I have to say, I agreed wholeheartedly with all of the recommendations, except the last one. I’ve always tried to add my name or spin to tweets, but it looks like for just passing along info, a quick retweet might be all we need.

Here’s Ms. Indvik’s note on that (and remember, this is coming directly from Twitter):

Tweets that are re-tweeted in full using the automatic Retweet button are retweeted three times as often compared to tweets that are quoted.

Romney’s 47% Blindspot

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I don’t think that Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s hidden camera, cough47%cough, gaffe is that crazy.

I think that people looking to get elected listen to their campaign managers who tell them to say what it takes to get elected and then deal with the clean-up later. (Wow, that sounds much worse out loud.) Politics is rough and tumble and everyone wants something different for their vote. Those who believe that everything a candidate says publicly is exactly what they believe and will promise to do is an idealist of the worst stripe.

Candidates have feelings and biases and idiosyncrasies that they tamp down or focus, depending on who they think is listening to them. In short, they’re human. There is no grand machination or cover-up here, they’re just like you and me. And you don’t get elected by telling people that their pet concern isn’t the candidate’s favorite thing in the whole world.

I don’t think this is a gaffe. I don’t think most of the things our media calls gaffes these days are really the candidates’s fault. (Even President Obama had his famous YouTube moment four years ago.) Instead, these are failures of the campaign.

Any campaign manager who tells his or her candidate to scathingly rebuke and insult 47% of the public and assume that audio or video coverage of it won’t get out isn’t worth the price of their $500 shoes. It’s their job to anticipate problems and mitigate them. And to think that YouTube isn’t the biggest potential problem is a blindspot the size of the moon. Every one of the last few Presidential candidates have had hidden camera moments show up on YouTube, how have they not yet learned?

I take two lessons from this situation.

Personal thoughts first, it’s the job of the executive to put the very best people in the most important positions. If you’re running for the office of President and you put someone who has forgotten about YouTube in charge of your image, I wonder about your judge of character (which is a bigger deal than insulting potential voters).

What this means for us as emergency communicators is the second lesson. In a Presidential campaign, all communications are emergency communications. The season is too short; the media interest is too high; think of your worst comms day and that’s every day in a campaign. I equate our jobs to that of the campaign manager, in an emergency, we tell the executive what to say, who to say it to, when and where to say it, we manage the media and media environment and ensure that our executive doesn’t insult 47% of the country.

What do we need to learn from this? Don’t forget YouTube, simply. There are no more privileged communications. If we’re speaking in front of an audience, we should assume that someone–with an axe to grind–is recording that speech. We need to train our spokespeople to speak intelligently and cognizantly ALWAYS. Rambling answers are what leads to disasters like this. Unfocused thoughts lead to this. “Winging it,” leads to this. We need to get better at protecting our spokespeople from themselves, lest we feel the wrath of a pissed off 47%

National Preparedness Month and Serendipity

I was given the extra special opportunity to write a blog post on the excellent Association of Public Health Laboratories’ Public Health Lablog for National Preparedness Month. As you know, I’ve worked with APHL in the past for an amazing series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) with their Executive Director Scott Becker, on his experiences during 9/11.

Given what we’ve been talking about this month, about not having an audience and about killing the campaign; the current that I find connects all of this is getting away from rigid planning. I don’t know what the hot topic of the day will be, so why try to force my chosen topic? I don’t know who’s listening to me today, so why shut out ninety percent of my audience? What happens when you get away from rigid, strict planning?

Luck. Kismet. Serendipity.

You meet people you would never think you’d meet. You learn deeply about things you never knew existed. You see the world with child’s eyes. You are awed again.

My post for the APHL Lablog today is about just that; about how, during National Preparedness Month, we should step outside our comfort zones and learn about new things. Meet new people. Experience life. Enjoy serendipity. Who knows, in those crisis moments, if some new experience or contact will be there to help save your bacon? If you don’t get out there, they certainly won’t be there.

Death to the Campaign!

When I started this Your Audience is a Lie thing, I was hoping to parlay it into a nice little series. Unfortunately, before I could finish it with my bold prediction of what your jobs as government communicators will look like in a few years, one of the smartest and most dedicated people I know in health communications beat me to the punch. Alex Bornkessel, who runs an amazing MS charity with her family, called for death to the campaign this past weekend and I couldn’t agree more.

This idea that campaign-focused communications actively works against our goals of affecting real change (whether it be health-focused, preparedness-focused, or some other goal) in two different ways. First, it assumes that our audience is there, available, placid and interested, during the time we decide they should hear our messages. If they are otherwise ready to lose weight, or set up a communications plan, or change the batteries in their smoke detectors, except for some family crisis that happens during our predefined “campaign time,” then they don’t get the message that they need to change their behavior. (This is a HUGE reason I despise days, weeks and months that celebrate or raise awareness for something; what, tuberculosis doesn’t matter the other 364 days of the year?)

The other reason only communicating through campaigns is harmful is, in my estimation, infinitely worse. Say your timing works out and you get lucky and actually find someone who was patiently waiting for your message. Not only that, but the message is specifically tailored to the group she self-identifies with (because you’re still marketing to audiences and not everyone), and she takes action on it. She’s moved from Contemplation to Preparation based solely on your messaging. Congratulations! But, what happens when you end your campaign? Specifically, what happens to this wonderful person that you’ve prepped to be ready to move forward and actually change her behavior? Does she not move to the Action stage? Does she resent your messaging for leaving her hanging, alone? Is she willing to wait another year for you to become interested in her problem again? Will she even listen next time?

Alex puts the problem into specific relief here, and even offers the solution we’ve been talking about:

Traditional mass media models that follow TV PSAs, direct mail, radio announcements and the like allow us to safely distance ourselves from the nitty-gritty hard work of transforming our world. It puts us a hands distance from actually interacting with and serving our people. It’s time to roll up our sleeves.

Our work is no longer about building a one-and-done campaign, but about creating shared experiences and building movements. To build bridges, we have to walk side-by-side with those we want to not only reach, but truly engage.

Her post is called Shifting from Campaign to Cause, which is sublime in it’s understanding of the problem. If we really want to affect change, we have to believe that our message is good enough for everyone, whenever they are ready to hear it, and understand that they’ll have questions and concerns and complaints and praise, and that it’s part of our job to find those comments and questions important and valid and respond to them.

Honestly, if we’re not invested enough in our work to do that, why are we even messaging?