What to Do When the Media Gets it Wrong

Social media is a blessing and a curse to the news industry. It’s a great way to get news to spread instantly, but on the other hand, it can also spread the wrong news instantly.

Because news is a 24-hour business these days, some news agencies are so worried about being first instead of right.

Unfortunately, we saw this with the tragedy that recently occurred during the Boston Marathon. News agencies were so focused on being the first ones to bring the supposed new information to the public that sometimes that “new information” was not always accurate.

You may have even experienced this error with your own organization. Maybe a reporter erroneously stated that taxes will go up or said that your organization is involved in some non-existent lawsuit (and yes, I’ve been a witness in the newsroom when both of these false stories were reported).

So what should you do as an organization when this happens? There’s no easy answer to this, but here’s a good start.

1. Take Back Control of the Story.
You know what they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Through every avenue you can think of, let your public know what the truth is. All hands on deck! Post the truth on your organization’s website, update the Facebook page, Tweet it out on Twitter, etc. Be sure to state that there are erroneous reports floating around, restate the truth, and regain the reins of the facts.

2. Let the Media Know About the Error.
Now it’s time to let the news agency know about the error. I know what you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t I tell the news first?” No, you shouldn’t!

You need to make sure damage control is done on your end first. Besides, one thing the news hates is a retraction. (No one really likes admitting they were wrong.) So the possibility is very high that the correction will be a little blip at the end of a story instead of the top headline, like the original false story was.

3. Be Cautious in the Future.
You should forgive the person who gave the wrong information, but don’t forget it.

For future reference, be picky about the interviewers with whom you choose to talk or make sure the interview is recorded for further clarity.
Fooled me once, shame on you. Fooled me twice, shame on me, right?

There’s no foolproof way to stop the media from reporting anything, but as long as you have an action plan in place just in case they get it wrong, you’ll be well on your way.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

2 responses

  1. You’re right, there is no easy answer. It’s important to build healthy relationships with reporters, but also their bosses. This way it’s easier to pick up the phone to state your case. If you’ve been fair with them in providing information, you’re in a stronger position to have this corrected. If you haven’t been fair and available, well, good luck with that. Relationships, relationships, relationships. Good stuff as always Hope!

    1. That’s very true, Andy. Relationships play a big factor in how the situation can be remedied.

      Thanks for your insight!

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