Buried Alive: Social Media Helps Bad News Rise from the Dead

Burying news is a practice widely used by public relations professionals. However issuing news on a Friday at 5PM or while another organization or event is dominating the narrative is no longer a sure fire way to go unnoticed. Sorry folks, there no longer exists a bottomless pit to drop press releases.

So who’s to blame? Responsibility squarely rests on social media and “citizen journalists.” Case in point: Twitter reports are highlighting just how one such attempt to bury bad news is backfiring. Just as Apple presented its much-anticipated keynote to announce the iPad mini, social game provider Zynga reportedly laid off more than 100 employees, providing them with 2 hours to vacate their desks.

The news broke as former Apple, Sony, Mint, and Smulee employee Justin Maxwell posted the following tweet:
Since Maxwell’s post the Twitterverse has been lit up with rumors ranging from layoffs of departments (TheVille and Bingo) to entire office shutdowns (Austin, Boston, and Chicago). At the time of posting this article, Zynga has yet to make a formal statement however it would be a fair bet that the company’s management and communications team had the Apple keynote in mind when deciding when to inform their employees of this news. (UPDATE: Read the statement from Zynga CEO Mark Pincus.)

With the proliferation of social sites, especially those adopted as news sharing platforms, it is time for public relations professionals to rethink when to deliver bad news – if they haven’t already. There is no more hiding and trying to do so may just make matters worse.

Here are some tips for dealing with a brewing crisis.


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