Yesterday’s events at Navy Yard offer us some great lessons in public relations and demonstrate the power that social media can and should play in the face of tragedy. As with anything, some did it well, others not so much.
Anyone who follows the United States Navy on Twitter knew about the incident while the shooter was still in the building because the Navy was tweeting about it in real time. At first it struck me as odd if only because of the closely guarded nature of our military, but this kind of reporting is exactly what you want in a moment of crisis. You want to get information out quickly to as many people as possible and get ahead of the story before misinformation becomes fact in the blink of an eye. The US Navy’s approach here was spot on. Get ahead, and control the story. They did a fantastic job on that front.
In other proof that good always triumphs over evil, Uber DC sent out a tweet on its account letting patrons know that they were offering free rides to those still within the vicinity of the shooting. Good PR and doing the right thing go hand-in-hand. Take note, WMATA.
Proving they have no class and holding their riders with such contempt, a WMATA bus denied free bus fare to a patron from Navy Yard. As if that weren’t enough to make you disgusted, not only were they disseminating information to as few people as possible, but they continued to disseminate the wrong information.
Amid all the chaos and uncertainty, the Senate went on lockdown by the afternoon out of “an abundance of caution.” However, the House, which is actually closer to Navy Yard, did not. Go figure. Politics are always at play in this city.
Finally, we have the response of our beloved Washington Nationals. They did the right thing offering the stadium as a place to reunite families with those affected by the shooting, but why it took almost the entire day deciding to postpone the evening’s game, I’m not sure. With the ongoing investigation and insistence by the Capitol Police that residents remain away from the area, it defies logic. There certainly are logistics involved in canceling an event like this at the last minute, but I think if Major League Baseball were more coordinated it wouldn’t have taken them almost six hours to make that call. There are several reasons from the outset that game should have been canceled immediately. The most obvious reason is that you don’t want play in an unsafe environment. Not to mention many players (rightfully so) felt that playing last night would be disrespectful.
Social media is a powerful medium and can be used to great advantage during crisis time. Your brand can benefit tremendously when it’s used correctly or it can suffer when it’s not. Learning to leverage it and use it wisely when needed is extremely valuable.