Even in a rapid-fire news cycle, answering correctly is more crucial than answering swiftly
If events are spiraling toward a potential crisis for your company, organization or department, when it comes to your communications, it is said that “speed is a weapon.” Respond quickly to get out the facts and prevent or quell rumors. This has become even more important in this new social media era.
Although that’s true, too much speed without taking the time for fact-checking can force some major back-pedaling and bring about a new crisis.
So it was in the case of Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department employee fired after a video of a speech she had given, implying she was a racist, was aired on Fox News.
It turned out (and rather quickly) that the video had been edited to make her look bad. In fact, she was making a point that although she may have had initial feelings that were negative toward a white farmer, she ultimately helped the man and, in doing so, realized that it wasn’t about color but rather about needs. White or black, he was a farmer who needed help. Sounds fair to me. But because everyone quickly reacted to the edited version to, in their minds, avoid a crisis, the result was the crisis’ crisis.
This is a lesson organizations should also take to heart: React quickly, but not in haste.