‘WSJ’ Taps Staff to Amplify Russia-Reporter Crisis

Thom Weidlich 04.06.23


Last week, Russia arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, accusing him of being a spy. This is a terrible crisis for the paper. It has deftly turned to its employees to encourage them to keep the story high profile on social media. The approach can be a good example for communicators to follow.

On March 31, Emma Tucker, the WSJ’s new editor in chief, wrote to employees thanking them for their support and laying out what the company is doing to try to get Gershkovich (pictured) released. “The actions of the Russian government are completely unjustified,” she wrote. “Evan is a member of the free press who right up until he was arrested was engaged in newsgathering.”

Robert Thomson, CEO of WSJ parent News Corp., also wrote to employees, according to the Talking Biz News website. “We are obviously pursuing all possible avenues, public and beyond, to secure Evan’s release,” he wrote.

Social Media

In another memo posted by Talking Biz News, WSJ Standards and Ethics Editor Emma Moody wrote to staff encouraging them to continue using social media to amplify the story and to add the hashtag #istandwithevan. The memo included a link to a folder with icons and other assets that could be appended to social-media profiles “to help keep Evan top of mind and show a united front.”

It included “suggested sharing language”: “Please read and feel free to share our article about Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal, the distinguished U.S. journalist unjustly detained by Russia.”

Moody also mentioned “messaging guidelines”: “Stay positive and highlight Evan’s work,” share personal anecdotes about him and “keep the focus on Evan and avoid statements about Russia or politics.” Finally, she encouraged employees to forward other ideas to her for promoting Gershkovich’s predicament.

Crisis Communications

All of this is very good crisis communications. The WSJ’s approach, in terms of messaging and using social media, seems well thought out. It’s a good reminder for communicators to, where appropriate, tap employees to promote important messages during a crisis. Obviously, the WSJ faces a situation that calls for seeking out publicity, especially in Western media, to keep up the pressure. That’s not always the case.

Of course, a newspaper has a crisis outlet many others don’t: its own pages. The WSJ has been covering Gershkovich’s arrest intensely, including publishing a very good profile of him. The paper has also lifted the paywall on all articles by and about him.

Photo Credit: WSJ

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