Social networks and the web drive media role reversal

Opening the Jerusalem Post this morning at our hotel in Jaffa I was faced with photos of Israeli soldiers being thrown overboard and pictures of weapons having been collected from the activists on board the shop. There was also a lament about the delay in getting an official media response from the Israeli Defence Force to that world opinion had already turned firmly against the Israelis before their response was ready.

I then checked the BBC news whilst cooling off at a local Tel Aviv café and find that Israel is again in the global spotlight with rumours of more threatened intafada for the Israeli killing of the activists on board the aid ship on route for Gaza. Two different versions of events for the global traveller to then work out what really happened and who’s to blame. In a world of instantaneous communications, when a tweet can be published in a few seconds it is clear that governments like that in Israel have been caught out and cannot respond fast enough. In a country that has pretty decent wifi in many areas and some of the tightest airport security on the planet, I’m surprised that it has not figured out how to respond in good time in such times of crisis. The UN also deliberated all night over its statement published today about the incident.

It’s clear that those on 24 hour duty to deal with the communications strategy are not yet empowered to enable speedy messages from any of these institutions.

Social networks and the internet are changing the way we respond to the media and there has been something of a role reversal where the media such as the BBC are the ones hungry for the latest news on the Israeli situation, promising anonymity for anyone able to contribute a personal story. Meanwhile the Jerusalem Post is complaining about hackers having tried to crash their servers today with over 4,000 emails in a few seconds. Anyone can now shape the news we receive and this brings its own set of risks and concerns as false rumours spread today that one of the Arab Israeli leaders had been killed on board one of the aid ships on route to Gaza.

The examples above show how any organisation large or small needs to be ready to deal with the media challenge which can spread good or bad news in seconds and could destroy their reputation in a tweet. Witness the impact that every latest discovery about the oil spill threatens the BP oil spill which fell another 15% today. Transparency and speed of response are essential to any successful communications policy.

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