Breaking news – the most challenging news to cover for a journalist, and possibly the most challenging news to handle for a government agency.
In a world where news not only breaks fast, it breaks often, agencies can find themselves scrambling to stay above the fray and disseminate accurate information in a timely manner.
And with news organizations operating more and more on a solely digital front, we still too often see agencies fall behind and struggle to regain control of a story that they truly had the opportunity to take hold of early on. Social media is a tremendous tool for government and law enforcement agencies if used correctly in a breaking news scenario.
There is something called the newsjack, and it looks something like this:
The newsjack lasts mere minutes, but for government agencies, those moments are all you need. This is your opportunity to take control of the story, to share as much news as possible and to share it as soon as possible. By sharing content on all your social media channels quickly, you ensure that you become the sole provider of information (better known as the primary source) before your residents, followers and news crews go looking for information somewhere else.
With news circulating through platforms like Twitter in less than 60 seconds and posts on Facebook having a shelf life of about four hours unless they go viral, your time to be at the helm of providing news to your followers is vitally important if you get there early.
Tips for Effective Newsjacking
Have a game plan in place for when a news story kicks off involving your agency, including having someone socially listening on all your channels to respond quickly and effectively to queries and comments posted by news stations and the public. Two-way engagement is more important than ever here.
Remember, news stations are ditching phones and emails and simply sending tweets to ask for updates on situations. Be there for them and have answers, even photos and videos, ready for reporters and photographers so that their job is taken care of by the time they decide to arrive on scene, if they arrive at all. This will lighten your burden for responding to on-camera requests and constant ringing for updates. Silence on social media in these situations is your enemy. You have to find a way to update folks, even if no update is available. Reminding them that you are still working on an incident or still on-scene will suffice until new information is available. The minute you break from regular updates, people will begin to allow their imaginations to run wild and news crews will pick up on it.
Refresh and update your online content regularly. Soon, you’ll see news agencies retweeting your content and quoting it verbatim either in print, on television or online, which for you ensures the story is as accurate as possible. If the story begins to trend, come up with a hashtag to attach to your updates to cultivate the news.
The more you stay in the thread of providing news on an incident, the faster it will likely be resolved and the sooner the story becomes “archived.” Also, always provide comment. An agency that doesn’t have time to provide even the shortest statement is assumed to be guilty of something – a death sentence in the court of public opinion.
So, in short, go ahead, jack the news. Be the caretaker and be the provider for journalists and your residents. Be the one who leads the charge for sharing news on social media, and be the one who leads by example by showing that you are not just blasting out information, but that you are listening when anyone – reporters or residents – have questions.