We Need A Distraction

In the last decade, there has been a huge explosion in the number of crisis communications experts. (And a similar explosion in crises. I wonder if there’s any correlation there.) Everyone and their mother has something to say about how some agency, organization, company, famous person or regular person should have reacted in their time of need. Cluckers as I’ve called them before, always seem to be there clucking at others’ misfortune like very concerned gossips.

One aspect of our increasingly connected world is that small mistakes or problems get blown way out of proportion (or, if to the right proportion, it tends to happen in minutes, far faster than anyone can reasonably react). Someone, somewhere termed this explosion of vitriol and clucking a Twitterstorm. Lots of tweets, noise, flash and like a real storm, it moves away quickly leaving the target broken and wondering what the hell just happened. A key part of those Twitterstorms is the feedback loop that maintains and amplifies the storm:

The perfect Twitter storm

Definition: a story that starts on Twitter and through a feedback loop with traditional press generates a significant amount of attention across a broad audience.

Best examples: the Blackberry email outage, the Topman T-shirt slogan controversy and the John Lewis Christmas TV ad campaign

And if you’ve ever participated in something like this, some crisis or disaster, you’ll know exactly the frustration of having to respond to same questions, the same tweets, the same criticisms over and over and over again, sometimes even days later.

And if you haven’t, you need to see this great listicle from Buzzfeed (thanks @MarcDrummond!) that details the 29 steps of a Twitterstorm:

1. Somebody, somewhere does something wrong.
10. Somebody starts a petition.
13. People start doing satire about it. [ed. note: cue Hitler photoshopped image)
18. Politicians jump on the bandwagon.
23. Focusing on the key issue, social media “experts” rub their hands with glee at a new case study to write about.
26. Until the next day a celebrity who’s only just seen it and can’t be bothered to check what the outcome was starts the whole thing up again.
27. Fortunately, at this point somebody invents a hashtag game and everybody gets distracted.

It’s this twenty-seventh point that I wanted to bring to your attention. And I say this with the EXPLICIT instructions to NEVER do this.

I wonder why some of those dirty, underhanded crisis communications “experts” haven’t started touting their ability to offer distraction. In this world of short attention spans (ed. note: SQUIRREL!), sometimes the tempest only lasts until something cooler, or worse, or better comes along. Media officers used to be forced to wait until the next news cycle, but now there is the potential to force interest from your particular crisis.

Think of how crisis communications experts would advertise it: I created the #ILoveWhenBoys hashtag and got it up to the third highest trending term!

But no, nobody would ever really do that. Would they?