Catch trouble early to prevent crisis management nightmares
It was a blood-boiler of a story, a menacing tale of government gone too far: The Environmental Protection Agency was spying on Midwestern farmers with the same aerial “drones” used to kill terrorists overseas.
This month, the idea has been repeated in TV segments, on multiple blogs and by at least four congressmen. The only trouble is, it isn’t true.
It was never true. The EPA isn’t using drone aircraft — in the Midwest or anywhere else.
This quote, from a Washington Post article by David Fahrenthold, is yet another example that shows just how wildly out of control false information can get on social media. What started as a group of Nebraskan lawmakers asking for answers about manned surveillance planes being operated by the EPA turned into a headline-grabbing story when a few social media users caught the story second hand and twisted things a bit. Suddenly, instead of benign small planes, the EPA was (supposedly) using DRONES, already a hot button topic in the news. As the quote says, the story really grew legs after that, blowing up all over Twitter and Facebook, and grabbing air time everywhere from Fox News to Comedy Central.
Remember, all of this was over something 100% fabricated. At no point did the EPA use drones, at no point did the Nebraskan lawmakers who began the inquiry ask about drones, yet for well over a week, there was a massive furor raging about the EPA and its nonexistent use of these nonexistent drones.
In order to stay ahead of problems like this, it’s essential to constantly monitor both traditional and social media for anything that could concern your organization. In the case of the EPA, it should have been on top of the first tricklings of false rumors on blogs and Twitter, clarifying to the posters that there were in fact no drone aircraft in use, and asking that a correction be posted where possible. If you can catch the problem right when it starts, crisis management becomes a significantly simpler task.
The BCM Blogging Team