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Social media warning from veteran BBC journo - shipping has '24 minutes' to respond to a crisis

Social media warning from veteran BBC journo - shipping has '24 minutes' to respond to a crisis
Former BBC presenter Nik Gowing issued a stark warning to the shipping industry of the dangers it faces from social media in the event of a casualty.

“It is not about the media, it is about a whole different set of challenges to you. It’s ruthless and uncomfortable,” Gowing a visiting Professor, Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy, Kings College London, warned over 250 leading shipping executives at the Danish Maritime Forum.

Gowing gave the examples of both the Sewol and Costa Concordia casualties as to how the ability to instantly record, send and upload video has changed the media landscape.

He noted the proliferation of cameras in the case of the Sewol in particular. “This has caused enormous challenges for the current (South Korean) President and the shipping industry because everything could be seen.”

In a time of crisis Gowing said you had to assume now “people are using their phones before getting their life jacket”.

“This is chilling for you as you have to assume someone, somewhere is recording it,” he added.

For those in shipping who think they are safe because their ship casualty is offshore he said it was not the case as drones could be deployed to take pictures. “You can shoot it down as the drone journalist will have many more,” he warned. Indeed Gowing noted in the recent huge explosions in the port of Tianjin footage was available online from at least four different drones, despite it having happened in China.

“There is no point having a strategic communications advisor who says you have a Twitter and Facebook account.”

Gowing urged companies to respond immediately to a major crisis to take the high ground. “You’ve got to be seen to enter this space. You’re mindset might be you have 24 hours to respond – I’d put it you have 24 minutes.”

The Germanwings airplane crash caused by pilot suicide was cited as a good example to respond. He noted the company’s ceo was very quickly into the social media space, seizing the high ground. “Yes there are going to be problems, but at least he was there in that space.”