Traditional media alive and well

Digital disaster reinforces importance of old-fashioned news. 

When more than 10 million Australians tried to check their emails or send a text last week, they quickly realised they were disconnected from the online world.

The nation-wide Optus outage was more than frustrating for the 400,000 businesses who lost income when emails and online banking stopped working, and dangerous for people who needed access to emergency services but couldn’t contact 000 or their local hospital.

With access to social media and online news sources thrown out the digital-window, Optus customers had to scramble to get the latest information from outlets who don’t rely on a telco to operate. This meant turning on the television and switching on the radio.

This digital disaster was a prime example of why traditional media is not – and will never be – dead in the water.

Many have predicted the demise of newspapers, radio, and television networks for decades, but in times of crisis – whether it’s a natural or digital disaster – traditional media platforms, and the journalists behind them, remain a trusted source of timely information.

Television is still the dominant news source, with 40% of Australians tuning in to keep up to date with news from their backyard to the rest of the world. Unsurprisingly, this is followed by 27% using online news and 22% using social media.

But when your ability to access regular social media platforms like LinkedIn or online news websites (including the ASX!) is depleted, it’s vital to have another option to get your message across.

This comes down to having a strong crisis communications plan, ready to implement as soon as the unprecedented occurs.

During last week’s outage, Optus had no way to communicate directly with its customers, as text messages, phone calls, emails, and online services were unavailable.

Their plan involved putting a short statement onto their website – which couldn’t be viewed by people with no internet – and sending key messages to journalists and newsrooms around Australia asking for it to be broadcast.

The problem? The information was scarce and confusing, wasn’t updated for hours and didn’t answer the multitude of questions posed by the public.

Worse still, it took roughly six hours before the CEO fronted up to the media to explain what was happening, which resulted in the Optus boss being labelled “missing-in-action”.

While this digital disaster was an extremely rare event, the Optus outage reinforces the need for all businesses to have a solid crisis communications plan to get key messages out quickly to staff, shareholders, stakeholders, and the broader community.

This is why SPOKE focuses on setting a clear and simple course-of-action for when, or if, a crisis event occurs.

Having the ability to control the narrative when the proverbial hits the fan, is the difference between successfully managing a challenging situation, or something much more sinister and longer lasting.