Moments of Opportunity

In a worskshop on blogging at UMAC Gordon
Atkins, the creator of Real Live Preacher blog, noted how quickly ideas move
across the blogosphere. He illustrated by telling about his experience with
Katrina relief.

In a worskshop on blogging at the annual meeting of The United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC), Gordon Atkins, the creator of Real Live Preacher blog, noted how quickly ideas move across the blogosphere. He illustrated by telling about his experience with Katrina relief.

Readers of his blog spontaneously donated approximately three thousand dollars for emergency relief in his city, San Antonio, and he was able to provide grants to a local shelter for immediate needs as they arose.

This illustrates more than the compassion of his blog readers, although that’s part of the story. It also illustrates the immediacy of the electronic environment. The window of opportunity for communicating a message that captures the attention of the widest audience opens quickly and closes with similar speed.

The ability to communicate in this quick-changing environment is crucial to being heard. Individuals and those organizations that are geared up to influence public perception can do this effectively. But few mass membership organizations do it well. Many, especially mainline church groups, operate under control procedures that were designed for another era when messages moved at a slower pace and timing was more manageable.

Timing is everything In the media environment today. Moments of opportunity come and go, quite literally in the blink of an eye because we’re all seeing stories as they develop on-screen. If a message is delivered too late, or at least so late that the story has progressed beyond the content of the message, it appears out of touch. In a fast-changing environment this does nothing for credibility.

Media advisor T.J. Walker says Michael Brown, former FEMA Director, fired himself on live TV. When Brown told Paul Zahn that he was unaware of people in the civic auditorium in downtown New Orleans when the story had been developing for at least two days, he appeared completely uninformed and even a loyal President couldn’t save him.

Those who seize the moment to deliver a message that’s relevant to the immediate circumstances establish themselves as capable resources. Those who don’t are passed by, or worse, are dismissed (sometimes literally).

But these critical moments of opportunity arrive when they arrive, which means stories develop and progress at breakneck pace. Mass membership organizations don’t operate at this pace. And unless they are especially mindful of the need to do so, they are often so far behind the curve they are not able to influence a story because they don’t respond in a timely way.

This results in loss of voice because someone, somewhere is prepared and if they step into the void at the critical moment they are heard.

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