Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Royal Navy Media Own Goal

First of all, everyone should be reading Sir Humphrey's ThinPinstripedLine blog, and here is a perfect example why.

I know most of you saw bits and pieces of the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (R08) operating with the F-35B for the first time last week. Some of you might not know the maddeningly short sighted and archaic media policy around it.

What a huge lost opportunity to tell a great Anglo-American naval story.

Over to Sir H.;
The MOD chose to send a group of correspondents to the ship to witness the flying trials and spend time embarked onboard. The deal appears to have been that the media party would self fund their travel to the USA, and in turn get a period of grace to prepare proper reports and coverage of the trials. A media embargo (essentially an agreed time when people privy to the story agree not to report it) was agreed for 2200 on Friday 28 September. In practical terms this meant that all the participants would have had images and stories good to go, but none of them would be released prior to 2200.

The plan appears to have hit problems when earlier in the week a story covering the event was briefly published on a reputable site, by accident and not intentionally, considerably before the embargo was due to be lifted. The article, including details and pictures was quickly pulled, but not before keen observers in the wider internet space took copies of the images and disseminated them.

By Friday morning, several images of the trials were already widely available on Facebook and other sites and being reposted. Humphrey saw the image he retweeted via social media at a point when it had already had well over 100 likes or comments. Very quickly on Friday morning word began to spread across interested parts of the internet that the images were out, that people were delighted to see them and they quickly got retweeted and gained traction across a wide community.

The response by the MOD was not to lift the ban, but to put pressure on social media users to not repost the images. Humphrey was directly contacted by the MOD Press Office (who he has no relationship or prior contact with) asking him to adhere to the 2200 embargo in order to be fair to his ‘journalist colleagues’ (!) who had paid to get to the event and give them their exclusive.
Read it all, as it should be a PAO test case on how not to roll out a once in a career story.

So much good could have come from this, but sadly, the control freaks sub-optimized the whole thing.

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