A few weeks ago, I was involved in what amounted to an “industrial accident” when we released some confidential information before its embargo time, despite pledging it wouldn't happen, and being very careful. In my career, this has happened only once or twice, and it's always extremely painful.
As I was describing what happened, it made me realize how much has changed in such a short time.
We're nimble. We're evolving. We created a “Video News Release” as part of our communications plan. In a short video, we summarized the news that we were going to announce at the biggest trade show for our industry, E3. The plan was for it to go live immediately after our press conference, with our official press releases.
About 30 minutes prior to our press conference starting, we're backstage at the auditorium, making preparations. My co-worker gets a text message on his phone, and his face goes flush. One of our community members tells him that we just leaked some confidential information. You know that feeling when the blood rushes to your head, and you have to work to catch your breath? I hope you never do.
The next two hours were a blur, as we tried to find out what happened. We ran to our laptops, to plow through a flood of text messages and emails, and assess the damage. And as soon as I knew what happened, I had to inform everyone I work with what had happened. All as the press conference was happening a few steps away.
We didn’t do a blog post. We didn’t publish any links to the video. It wasn’t even on our “channel” page of the video host site. We didn’t email a link to anyone. We hadn’t even set up a blog post where we would embed the video, because we didn’t want the off-chance that it would leak. What happened?
Because it took time to upload the video, we pre-staged it on our host site, and set it to go live at 12:30. Turns out, the video host server is on Eastern Time, and we’re on Pacific Time. And we set up automatic pings to Twitter and iTunes when we post new videos. Someone saw the notice on Twitter, opened the link to the video, and notified us.
Maybe nobody would notice, since everyone who would report the news was sitting in the auditorium of our press conference, right? Turns out most of the media sitting in the auditorium had laptops connected to wi-fi, or had cell phones with Internet access. All it took was 6 minutes for someone to watch the video, pull out the major announcements, and post the news. All before the press conference started.
Within a few minutes of the video going “live” on the host site, there were posts on the two biggest videogame blogs, Joystiq and Kotaku (>1 million daily views each), outlining some of our biggest announcements. Luckily, we kept details of our two biggest announcements out of the video, in the event of a leak. Good thing.
Just a few years ago, none of this could have happened. Look at the situation then:
- We didn’t publish news releases to a web site
- We didn’t have a way of notifying anyone when something was posted
- We weren’t actively working with community sites/bloggers
- We weren’t doing video news releases at all
- We weren’t posting any video content to external sites
- We didn’t do a “Social Media Release” or blog posts about our news
- We didn’t have a team Twitter account (for that matter, there was no Twitter)
- The media couldn’t react “real time.” Most news was run through writers and editors before it went live
- Nobody could get online at press events. The people attending, even with laptops, were offline.
- Even if they could get online, nobody would have time to download a video, write a news story, and get it published, without spending at least a few hours.
- Even with a leak, there weren’t enough people online on a weekday morning to spread the news very far, critical mass would take hours.
Wow, a lot has changed in a short time. What will things look like three years from now? One year from now? In six months?