You can’t have missed the debate in the UK about the sailors captured by the Iranian authorities who then later sold their stories to the national media. Whichever TV or radio station you tune into lately, there is some discussion about this issue. Equally, throughout the Internet there is a huge amount of debate on the topic. Now, politicians are calling for an inquiry into the situation. There doesn’t need to be an inquiry because it is so obvious what happened. Within minutes of these poor individuals being released the story was around the world on the Internet. Thousands of words were written within an hour or so of the release happening. That chatter on the Internet helped inform newspapers, magazines, TV and radio programmes who gave it immense coverage. It was a day later before the individuals involved were brought back to the UK and it was a further 36 hours before they gave a press conference. In that time newspapers in the UK had produced two editions, there had been endless hours of TV and radio coverage and yet more thousands upon thousands of words had been written on the Internet. By that time, the tabloid press had been given a chance to bid for stories. The Royal Navy, it seems, bowed to the relentless pressure and allowed their personnel to sell their stories for six figure sums. How did this happen? Because the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy waited too long to get their sailors in front of the cameras. Had they put up their servicemen and women straight away; had they delivered their stories to all the media in press conferences almost immediately upon release, there would have been no bidding war. The Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy appear to be living in a media world where there is plenty of time to think about things, to get things organised. But nowadays, thanks to the Internet, you only have minutes to respond; otherwise the story takes on its own life and you lose control. So, if your business, your venture or anything you get involved in attracts media interest of any kind you need to respond straight away. Don’t wait, like the Navy did; if you do, that pause, that gap, leads to a media vacuum and the consequences of that can be dramatic, as we have seen with the coverage of the selling of stories in the past few days.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+