Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Are You Prepared to Handle Live Tweeters for a Crisis Event?

An armed assailant wounded several people at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning.

Anyone who follows the U.S. Navy on Twitter knew about the incident while the shooter was in the building because the Navy tweeted about it in real time.

The first tweet came at about 8:40 a.m. EDT, about 20 minutes after the shooter was first reported as being inside the building. A few minutes later, the Navy’s Twitter account confirmed that three shots had been fired.
The Navy repeated that tweet about 20 minutes later to confirm that the shooter was still active.

By about 9 a.m. EDT, the Navy’s Twitter account was pointing followers to a full statement about the shooter, which said employees were under a “shelter in place” order, which essentially is an order to hide in a small room, and that there was one confirmed injury. News organizations reported multiple injuries, but the Navy confirmed only one as of about 9:20 a.m. EDT, later updating that to “several” injuries.

At about 2:30 p.m. EDT, the Navy tweeted that the Washington DC Police Department confirmed 12 people died in the shootings.

The Navy’s official hashtag for the incident, #NavyYardShooting, became the hashtag Twitter users quickly adopted to talk about what was happening. News organizations and personalities were using the hashtag to offer information about road closings:
Others offered support to the wounded.

How should legal professionals counsel clients to handle live tweeting about a crisis? Beat the tweeters at their own game.   Start live tweeting publicly available information (not inside information) as it happens before someone else beats you to the punch. Assign one person to do the tweeting after consulting with upper management as to what can and can't be communicated.  Apply liberal use of hashtags and own your own message.

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