With unemployment expected to exceed 7.6 percent in the U.S. and many economists now expecting the already 12-month recession to extend into 2010, situational communication is becoming more important than ever. Why?

People are stressed. And when people are already focused on security as their primary concern, they tend to react any time that security is threatened. Take the recent public flare up between National Post technology reporter David George-Cosh and Toronto marketing consultant April Dunford on Twitter.

Dunford tweets: “Reporter to me “When the media calls you, you jump, OK!?” Why, when you called me and I’m not selling? Newspapers will get what they deserve”

George-Cosh tweets: "what the f*ck. I called you for comment two days ago. What did you expect when you called me back? Don’t post that sh*t online"

Unbelievably, it degrades from there.

At first blush, most people would conclude that Dunford handled the situation well. But reading her blog tells a different story. Since, she has followed up by berating the incident with lessons that George-Cosh might learn and concluding the dead horse has been beaten. But not dead enough, because she continued two days later, dubbing it "the incident."

I'm not saying George-Cosh was right. He was not. But it is also difficult to call her handling much more than baiting, especially after she followed up with something that resembles something in between smugness and over justification on her blog.

For most people, blog dramas seem challenging enough with response windows occurring over hours. On Twitter or in real time, the response requires seconds, opening up even more room for meltdowns. They are all mini-crisis situations. Treat them as such.

Situation Analysis. Evaluate the situation or event, with an emphasis on collecting all known facts. (What is this really about?)

Determine Impacts. Determine the potential impact of these facts, including public perception. (What is at risk?)

Synchronize Messages. Define and synchronize messages specific to the crisis or event taking place. (What do I need to communicate to everyone listening?)

Designate Spokespeople. Designate a spokesperson, recognizing that the messenger is part of the message. (Am I the right person to address this?)

Collect Feedback And Adjust. Provide for mechanisms that collect immediate feedback and adjust communication. (What do I need to do next?)

There were many opportunities for both George-Cosh and Dunford to change the communication, but neither seemed capable. The end result was a communication breakdown unrelated to what happened first. In the follow up, neither performed well.

None of this is meant to say I haven't had my share of situations that I thought I could have handled differently. Instead, consider it a reminder that a recruiter's online communication (or while taking calls from desperate people) needs to remain balanced.

Your daily success will sometimes rely on how well you can make minute-by-minute situational assessments and avoid being sucked into a self-made crisis. If you take even a minute or two to ask the questions above, you'll likely handle the situation differently. You'll also be more likely to respond instead of react.

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Rich, great stuff as usual. Thanks for posting.

I see some parallels [and virtues] in personal and communal self-regulation and -determination in places like Twitter and RBC and yet they are different kinds of forum in so many ways.

How would you suggest "situations" on RBC are handled when "communications" [more often than not, spam posted without "thinking"] is answered with...well, answered with what is the question?

For a current thread see: Just so you know where I am coming from and this...
These kinds of events bring eyeballs - when people understand this (and they will get it - more and more) as Internet communication "matures" it will happen less and less. We're all in this together.
I was taught to always take a breath or sleep on a response if it seems to be in anger. In the old days it was print out put in top drawer and read in the morning. To take the emotion away from it. An emotional response, whilst it may feel good at the time, will most likely either escalate or make all parties look a little silly. I understand it is an emotional time though, and reactions like this may become more regular. I'm all for spirited debate, but when it gets personal or nasty.. really is there a point to it? (if people Google you later, ie perspective clients or employers or candidates, such an exchange won't help you)

I've found an interesting theme on RBC with people reacting to non core messages. Whilst I share the annoyance at the perceived spam, especially with one particular site. There is a feeling of either a pack mentality or "one upman ship" as to witty responses. I have been caught up on this myself at times, a couple in particular come to mind. Not sure what the answer is, (maybe just let one person respond if the post seems inappropriate, no need for others to voice their disapproval) but it is heartening that people value the content of RBC so much to make stands like this.
Dan, I share your concerns. That's why Jerry's "Nice Ad" is a good solution. It only takes one person to "stamp it" and then it's done. If left there it minimizes the potential for a slanging match to ensue.

Dan Nuroo said:
There is a feeling of either a pack mentality or "one upman ship" as to witty responses...(maybe just let one person respond if the post seems inappropriate, no need for others to voice their disapproval)
Thanks Ami.

Very often, the principles of communication remain unchanged, regardless of the medium.

In my experience, speaking from someone who works closely with BlogCatalog (170,000 blogger members), presence and the occasional private or public "reminder" is often enough to guide a community. In rare instances, BC is experimenting with a time out feature, which places accounts on a three-day freeze. Although, Spam is simply deleted.

Rarely, is anyone ever banned. Moderation can be handled slightly differently than participant communication, but it requires a very steady hand. I might add that moderators still have to consider the greater public. People perceive things differently depending on which seat they have in the house.

Very, very true. Personally, I try to support criticism because it's needed (cynicism, not so much) or else we might all be following ideas that need a healthy vetting. But again, we're all human so finding that balance between vetting a topic or making it personal can sometimes be tricky.

I had a slight bump Twitter today, signing on to see: Your account of Reid and railroads was inaccurate, with a link. Except, my account wasn't inaccurate. So, even though my proof was mostly personal (I heard him speak on the topic) with some attribution from other sources, I found a link to support my account anyway.

However, had I handled it badly, such a trivial bump could have been a mountain. Who needs that? :)
Dan, there is nothing wrong with a little "one upman ship" now and again. It can be fun, provided the parties aren't out to injury. Perhaps the question is ... when does dialogue become diatribe?

In the George-Cosh/Dunford is started out as diatribe. In another case that I wrote about (Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations, and Scott Monty, a new media communications executive at Ford Motor Company), it started out as dialogue and then took a turn for the worse. Here's a link.


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