For Gov. John Hickenlooper and 9NEWS, Social Media Makes the Spotlight Burn Brighter

Gov. John Hickenlooper - from official Facebook page

Gov. John Hickenlooper – from official Facebook page

As connections were made last week between the recent murders of a pizza deliveryman and the director of Colorado’s Department of Corrections, and then a surprising link was made back to Gov. John Hickenlooper, the news cycle began to pick up speed. On Friday, it came to a head. An interview between Gov. Hickenlooper and 9NEWS reporter Jace Larsen caught not only our attention from a communications perspective, but also created local and national headlines.

As PR professionals who maintain relationships with both clients and journalists, there were a lot of takeaways from the heated interview. Lesson for clients: losing your composure on camera – no matter how intense, personal, valid or not – creates footage bound to be shared. Lesson for journalists: while it’s important to ask pressing questions, it’s important to also know your limits and the limits of your sources.

But what’s particularly interesting about this situation is not the actual interview itself, but the conversation the interview has sparked, particularly on social media. Fewer than ten years ago the original story would have aired and that would have been the end of it. Today, thanks to websites and social mediums like Facebook, Twitter and blogs, constituents in the Denver area and beyond are taking an active part in voicing whether Gov. Hickenlooper or Larsen was in the right.

With more than 500 likes and more than 850 comments, the 9NEWS March 22 Facebook post about the issue clearly struck a nerve. A quick Sysomos search reveals nearly 100 Twitter mentions on the topic and more than 80,000 estimated impressions. From a focus on the political to moral issues, and everything in between, comments on Facebook, the station’s website editorial and on related articles prove that readers are passionate about the exchange and stand firmly on one side or the other.

The takeaway from a reputation management perspective? Simple. Remember that in today’s online world every story – good or bad – has a long shelf life.

My colleagues and I believe Gov. Hickenlooper did the right thing opening his doors to reporters to quickly address the situation last week, and his raw emotion was genuine and appropriate. Perhaps the denial of “access” statement was unnecessary, but again, a real reaction in a tough situation. 9NEWS also did the right thing by posting the raw footage and addressing the interview altercation from their standpoint – even going so far as to recognize the pressure on the Governor given his personal connection to the tragic events.

What are your thoughts? Who was right and who was wrong?

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