I've just finished listening to an excellent series of presentations on social media hosted by Vocus, and among the speakers was the justly famous (at least in marketing circles) David Meerman Scott.
In suitably rapid-fire fashion David talked about, to quote from his book blurb for Real-Time Marketing & PR, the “opportunities (and threats) inherent in today's always-on, 24x7, instant business environment” His latest opus is all about speed, being first, tempus fugit, etc, etc. Watching him rush about the stage as he presented, you can't help but admire his embodiment of the message he's delivering.
No question, speed is of the essence in marketing and PR: News cycles, product development cycles, sales cycles... they're all shrinking. To illustrate his argument for PR pros, David talked about United Airlines and their infamous PR fiasco over Dave Carroll's broken guitar, as well as Amazon's Big Brother antics pulling Orwell's 1984 off Kindles. He argued – correctly no doubt – that both companies took a geologic era to respond to events that unfolded in hours, and that their reputations were thus badly and unnecessarily damaged.
Lets look at a couple of other, recent anecdotes. Shirley Sherrod, anyone? No question, the White House, the NAACP, Fox News and pretty much every media outlet in the country acted damn fast on this one. And you'd think that many of these politicos would have learned their lessons from the BeerGate nonsense from last year. In both cases, everyone rushed to judgment, desperate to get into the news cycle and desperate to appear to be responsive. Both times, reputations were badly and unnecessarily damaged.
Speed has a price. Reflex PR is a high risk game.