Imagine this. You're walking past a shop with a sign Come on in! New customers welcome. There's a manager in the doorway trying to look welcoming. You point at the sign, and speak with a sceptical tone.
Are you reassured now?
Of course not. And yet that bland, single-serve, meaningless reassurance is what many organisations issue when faced with a crisis. They send the mainstream media a statement with minimal relevance to the central issue, then make themselves unavailable for follow-up questions, hoping to starve the issue of oxygen.
That's credibility suicide. It looks shifty. It looks as if you've been caught out doing something embarrassing and cannot look the public in the eye. If all you issue is that one bland statement, you can't blame the mainstream media for publishing it, nor social media for jumping right into attack mode.
Even when legal or procedural issues mean you can't yet comment on some details, you have to front up saying so. The question is not, do you front up. It's how you front up. In a crisis get expert media consultant advice on what to say and when. In the meantime here are a few of my blogs that might help.
Now, what if it's not a crisis? Just something you think the public should know. The short answer is that the same make-yourself-available principle applies - you're happy to give interviews to mainstream media and reputable bloggers, and you're happy to interact on social media. You're happy to be known. Obviously there is a longer answer, but that's for another time.
I'm often asked, 'How do I handle social media trolls?'
If the social media comments really are at that extreme - abusive hate attacks from anonymous cowards - the answer is simple. Do nothing. Any response validates their existence, gives them pleasure and invites them to continue eating you. If their comments promote hatred directly, or rely on extreme emotional labelling (watch for the presence of 'f' and 'c' words), ignore them.
But many who ask that question are not really talking about trolls. They're wondering whether or how to reply to hurtful social media comment. Here's a general guide.
Here's another possibility. Imagine reading a social media comment (about you, your product, your organisation) is like walking along the street past clusters of people talking about you. You wouldn't seriously try to persuade each small group and correct their way of thinking. But if you saw one large crowd listening to an influential speaker, you might want to get involved.
So I salute the entreprenuer Sir Michael Hill, who saw that all the negative Twitter comment was generated by one key player with a heap of followers. He entered the fray, on Twitter, like this:
Have fun, but don't feed the trolls.