By Jennifer Cherry Foster, Catalyst Media Factory  

— One of the great things about the Internet and social media are their enormous reach, including the ability to generate tremendous buzz very quickly as things “go viral.”

It is also one of its greatest dangers, in a world where everyone is a reporter. Any communication, once broadcast, is difficult or impossible to control. No one likes to play the damage control game.

Now, one of social media’s newest tools for instant gratification is live streaming, which allows one’s smartphone, through the respective app, to take the place of a live TV feed. Think of it as a web cam on steroids. While there were some early hiccups with the concept, Meerkat has already shifted emphasis away from its live streaming business, offerings like Periscope (owned by Twitter) and Facebook Live are gaining solid ground. And this at a time when people are moving away from “appointment TV” and into “on demand” viewing en masse.

The question becomes not whether the world is ready for live streaming, but what should businesses of all sizes make of it.

Here are a few points to consider when thinking of diving in to these “latest and greatest” streaming tools.

  • Understand the technology. For example, there are still some technical glitches in practice. During the political primaries, several news stations broadcast live updates via Facebook. After the Live broadcast, the videos no longer were available but a still frame appeared in the Facebook feed. Viewers left a string of comments trying to understanding what was going on. Facebook has since improved the platform and live streamed videos can now remain in a viewers’ news feed if the content creator chooses.
  • Don’t just live stream, because it is new and cool. Live streaming is better reserved for unique content that can’t be replicated by other modes of communication. Is your company undertaking a Guinness World Record attempt? Undergoing a significant merger and want to allow national and international journalists to view your CEOs address and announcement to the organization? By all means-stream live. Don’t be the boy who cried wolf.
  • Like we said earlier, as a society, we’ve moved away from “appointment TV” and want to consume content at our convenience. Few of us view content by a schedule any longer. If you choose to live stream an event or announcement, make sure to pre-promote it heavily to secure viewership through multiple social channels and even through traditional media outlets.

The public relations process is about managing your reputation. Make sure that you do not disparage, but strengthen that reputation when live streaming.