Timing is everything – Case in point: The Osama hit

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s pretty clear to anyone watching.

The entire world has been captivated of late by the daring American military raid that killed the most notorious terrorist in the world, Osama Bin Laden. It’s a historic event for America; a military plan that carried enormous risks and has suddenly catapulted President Barack Obama fully into the commander-in-chief role that had so far eluded his presidency. He took a risk and won. It was the right call and it went down just as planned (minus one helicopter, but who’s nitpicking?) The comparisons between himself and Jimmy Carter, whose rescue of the Iranian hostages failed miserably, are officially over.

Leaders from both the right and the left have offered up their congratulations–as well they should. While there may never be closure for the families of the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, this action at least puts to rest the nagging notion that America, for all its might, could not locate one diabetic old man who had caused so much destruction ten years ago. It’s been good for morale and the country’s place in the world–not to mention counterterrorism efforts.

So what’s the social media lesson to be learned? It has to do with authenticity and the ever-important quality known as timing. The problem arises with what can be perceived by an online audience in real time. Take, for example,  e-mail newsletters, or scheduled posts, which came out during this historic news event that may have the unintended consequence of hurting their cause–thanks to an insensitivity to Obama and the country’s moment, or more precisely, the demands of the 24-hour-news cycle. For instance, Donald Trump wouldn’t want to be doing interviews about Obama’s fake birth certificate on the morning of the president’s proudest foreign policy victory. A time when the flag waving had not even subsided yet.

While the right will still campaign hard to stop Obama’s re-election, disagreeing with his domestic policies and fighting him on virtually all fronts, most of their leading political figures realize that now, during a moment of national pride that transcends politics, is not the time to criticize. Let the country have a feel good week devoid of partisan bickering. This was a well-planned act of bravery by soldiers and leaders that has restored the sheen to the Oval Office itself. Shouldn’t be too long before we see the big Hollywood movie version (reportedly, the director of “The Hurt Locker” is in talks).

For social media clients and politicians, the lesson to understand is that unless you are carefully monitoring this kind of online activity–monitoring and controlling your output in real time in relation to real time world events–this kind of mistake can cause untold harm to a client, be it a business, or perhaps even a future presidential candidate.

All we are saying is this: In the Boy Scouts, preparation is everything. While that applies here–there are simply some things you can’t be prepared for. With social media, reaction is everything too.

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