Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Managing Misinformation in Resource Development

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on December 3, 2009

I recently attended a conference on resource development. I find these conferences a great opportunity to gauge the pulse of the economy and get a sense for the year ahead. I attended every session over the course of two days and was struck with a recurring theme. When dealing with resource development issues, managing misinformation holds great importance.

At the conference a number of different industries shared their challenges with managing misinformation as they sought to proceed with resource development projects. Examples from tourism, fisheries, mining, oil and gas exploration and timber were all shared. All industries critical to the economic health of the U.S., and all industries facing challenges in managing misinformation in their development efforts.

In recent years misinformation management could be handled through traditional public relations means – a fact-correction press release, a media announcement, an on-air interview or even through paid advertising. But as our digital world has been expanding the power of traditional media has been waning. As a result, the means by which misinformation is being generated and shared has changed greatly. Blogs, message boards, opinion sites, comments sections and all related means of social media have completely changed the way audiences consume information.

So what steps should industries take to manage misinformation in this new, open-source environment? 

1) Develop a formalized, managed “listening program.” You can do it on your own through a combination of Google Reader, Google Blogsearch, Twitter Search and Technorati, but plan on investing time on a daily basis to manage your searches. An alternative, you can engage an organization that can establish, monitor and analyze mentions through use of professional tools that provide dashboarding and reporting functions. If you cannot invest the time on your own or not sure where to begin, consider seeking out the help of a digital strategy firm to get you started. 

2) Leverage the transparency of social media. Assuming your organization has nothing to hide, be proactive in citing research, objectives, permitting processes, progress and delays. Transparency is key to managing misinformation. If you’ve got nothing to hide, prove it by sharing everything and do so in a very public environment. Post updates, blog entries, wins and losses to your web site or blog site. Include presentations and videos, photos and supporting research. Leverage YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Twitter, Facebook, Ning and other sites to share your information. In a battle of misinformation make sure your information is through, detailed and accessible through multiple sources across the web.

3) Have a social media crisis plan. In the world of social media you cannot affort to wait to respond to an inflammatory situation. Waiting the weekend for Monday to arrive or even waiting 24 hours to respond to a situation released via the web can be too late. In the case of resource development industries there are often millions at stake with every project. A runaway topic, comment or posting against your project can happen in a matter of hours. Your organization must have a plan in place to monitor, assess, and if necessary, react in 24 hours or less. For those who may have seen the Domino’s Pizza YouTube crisis earlier in the year, this reponse was released by Domino’s corporate within 24 hours. Their crisis plan was implemented quickly and without hesitation.     

Managing misinformation has always been a challenge in resource development industries. There are organizations bent on stifling progress of any sort and their greatest source of power is through public confusion and misinformation. With the expansion of digital communications tools and the unprecendented potential reach of social media networks, organizations are better suited than ever before to provide clear, relevant information before a maliciously intented group has any opportunity to mislead or misinform. Listen, be transparent and be prepared. Use today’s digital tools to your advantage in the battle against misinformation.

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