Comforting Media By Reenergizing Your Relationships

Photo Courtesy of Talat Hussain C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Talat Hussain C.C.

The Thinning of Media

Managing our media relationships is even more important today as media conglomerates continue to downsize newsrooms and shift to digital platforms.

Editorial downsizing and media convergence is nothing new in Canada. There is not a year that goes by without a headline announcing serious newsroom cutbacks in broadcast, print and radio. In 1970 Senator Keith Davey began the national dialogue in Canada warning of media convergence. Although concentrating on print journalism, the Kent Report findings represented recommendations intended for all media holdings.

“What matters,” explained the Committee’s report, “is the fact that control of the media is passing into fewer and fewer hands, and that experts agree that this trend is likely to continue and perhaps accelerate.”

And accelerate it did! Flash forward to 2017 and beyond, over the last year alone upwards of 1,200 productions, editorial and administration staff have been eliminated by convergence and editorial downsizing in this country.

International media has not escaped the swath of fiscal efficiency as one of the world’s most respected and digitally presentable news institutions, The Guardian Media Group, are speaking of “…steep editorial cuts.”

There is no doubt that these are extremely difficult times for media. Not necessarily for the business entities, but for the journalist that lies at the centre of keeping their jobs and maintaining integrity where the players are few; and the direction of editorial still unknown.

“We’re going down the path where journalism and the convergence of news that’s important for a functioning democracy is at an existential risk in this country,” expounds Howard Law, Director of Media for Unifor, the union representing over 13,000 in media.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Rice C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Rice C.C.

A Business in Transition

Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest media arms just last year announced the combining of newsroom editors and journalists in targeted regions across the country. Cities that had enjoyed localized coverage would now share newsgathering resources even though their editorial desks lie hundreds of miles apart.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, lamented, ‘thousands of stories of interest to each of these communities that would be lost because there are not enough resources to cover them.’ Essentially providing a ‘weekend coverage’ to the news moving forward.

If newsroom convergence wasn’t enough, now we have the perpetual shifting of digital media. Looking back a few years, media executives were locked on the idea that digital platforms were the Rosetta Stone bringing much-needed dollars back into ad revenues. This has not been the case as most analysts agree, ‘media today is forced to embark on the creation and provision of transferable content.’ Traditional methods of newsgathering are declining feeding the rise of content marketing.

Photo Courtesy of GotCredit C.C.

Photo Courtesy of GotCredit C.C.

Journalists as Marketers

Do our journalist friends need to find a new calling in developing content? Is media itself another channel to share content? Will this migration of media talent further erode journalistic integrity? Many questions and few answers.

If we look at purely skills as opposed to ethics, marketers are essentially publishers. And if we look at media institutions as news marketers, these marketers will rely on the experts that intrinsically seek the good stories when developing their content.

This speaks to the essence of Andrea Miller’s analysis, “Career Change. From Journalist to Content Marketer.” She identifies 6 key transferable skills journalists will need as marketers when developing content: “They realize Lines are Blurred, They Cut Through the Jargon, They are Technology-savvy, The Know How to Conduct an Interview, They Meet Deadlines, and They Can Tell a Story.”

In my experience, managing media relations has rarely deviated from the tenets of outstanding customer service. Traditional media, as part of a larger digital and social tactical array, will always be central to our overall strategic planning.

Earned media will never waver from being the hallmark of your media success.

Photo Courtesy of Doctor Popular C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Doctor Popular C.C.

A New Relationship Management System

 As professionals, we need to do our best to meet the expectations of an industry in constant flux. We must tweak our approach and redefine our expectations. Below lie 6 basic rules. Some old some new but all critical towards providing excellent relationship management to our partners.

  1. Be Relevant

Cross-platform repurposing is a common tactic when practising an integrated communications strategy. Take the time to provide them with a unique and informative story. Research what is topical and look to build your pitch around what is relevant – today. Provide your media with elements and leads when building the stories that resonate above the usual diet of ribbon cuttings and product launches. Keep the message tight for the reporter. Always think to repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.

  1. Amplify Their Work

Layout for them how you will be positioning their story in your media strategy. Inform them of the media channels that will be utilized in order to amplify their contribution to the overall story. How their article or interview is ‘getting out’ and how critical it is towards providing the ‘right content’ for the right audience. Practice your 360-degree approach to integrated communications and marketing and share this with your media partners.

  1. Recognizing and Foster Content Publishing

Explore with your partner how his/her job has shifted regarding recent media landscape changes. Are they needing more video than previously? What platforms are they tasked with providing content for? Without a news at noon and the ‘6’ deadlines, ask about their new publishing deadlines. Remember, content publishing means both video and written. Use your expertise to help them understand how you can help them continue to provide top quality content.

  1. Understand Brand Journalism Needs

Brand journalism is becoming more and more popular for many journalists leaving print and broadcast organizations. Recognizing this new job description will help us understand what constitutes a brand journalist and what they are looking for from you. After all, you are also educating yourself.

  1. Always be Available and Reliable

This rule should never change. Utilize new technologies to help keep in contact with your media partner. Twitter direct messaging is a good example. When in doubt, ask.

Often deadlines are fluctuant across multiple platforms. This means you need to be reliable with media tools so they can plan accordingly. Having everything ready and neatly assembled primed to be tucked under their arms, or shoved into their pockets. This form of reliability along with being available at all times keeps your partner congruent when meeting their deadlines.

Reliability also means making sure our expert spokespersons are media trained, well rehearsed and positioned for illuminating interviews. Look at all opportunities being dynamic when positioning your experts. ENG can come from not only a news camera but also a regular DSLR or iPhone. Always ask, but be ready just in case.

No matter if you work in A, B or C markets, we as professionals need to shift with the times as much as our media partners. By showing the empathy and respect they deserve, will speak volumes now and down the road when establishing and fostering excellent media relationships.

Our media partners did not ask to be where they are today. Let’s just make it a little easier for them to do their jobs.



3 Easy Steps to Trust Your News.

Fake NewsAs values go, trust sits the highest on most of our moral dashboards. It has been this way for generations etched by the epitaph, “In God we trust.” Right from the get-go, our parents imprinted, “Trust me. You’re not going to want to eat that!” After a week or so with our heads in the toilet bowl, we get it. It only takes us one life lesson to understand how trust is earned. With religious attention, we carry this assurance forward into our daily lives. As we mature, we happily trust all that is earned – including how we get our news.

LikeThe migration to online news.

In 2013, traditional TV news continued to command the lion’s share of viewers at 60 per cent. Social media and newspapers followed in behind with just under 30 per cent and radio even further back at 19 per cent. Moving forward to 2016; viewer numbers continue to increase for social media as Americans now flock to the internet to get their news. Sites such as Buzzfeed, Mashable, Vice and The Verge have replaced more traditional news sources by homogenizing daily events into bite-sized stories. All relentlessly broadcasting through a multitude of social media news feeds and apps. But one in particular – Facebook – clicked its way to the forefront of fake news proliferation.

In May of this year, Pew Research in America reported that a whopping 44 per cent of adults get their daily news now from Facebook. This means, almost half of adult Americans have entrusted Facebook to be their main source for providing ‘credible’ news.

If the news is coming through Facebook, it has to be real. Right? Wrong.

This blind trust not only heralded Facebook into a firestorm of ethics, it eroded the credibility of traditional news reporting and its social media distribution. Facebook, the presumed vanguard of social media practices was no longer able to clean their own house.  All the while, millions of viewers continued to get their news from dubious journalists on shady websites. Money was to be made and opinions indelibly changed by countries such as Russia, Romania and the U.S. Each glorifying the hard graft of creating and spreading false news.

crystal ball

Swaying popular influence.

America was in the throws of a contentious election campaign. Mud was flying everywhere and here-say was abundant as two political parties battled it out for the public’s opinion. Hungry for votes, each engaged in unethical social media practices by developing fake news and memes authored by an army of clandestine journalists. Fake news was now funnelling fiction through Facebook to over 140 million users. By the end stretch of the presidential campaign, fake news was actively helping both political parties build formidable propaganda machines by spreading disinformation and swaying electoral opinion. Even a foreign power had supposedly invested considerable time and effort in spreading negative propaganda to levy support with their choice for president. In December of this year, the CIA officially recognized that Russian-hosted fake news sites were highly influential when determining America’s 45th president. Strategically sanctioned by their leader Vladimir Putin.

So how do we pull ourselves out of the quagmire of mistruths and propaganda and identify fake from real?

Two easy and practical steps can help you regain your trust in news.

BaitStep 1. Beware of click-bait. 

Click-bait is a term relating to links or websites that encourage you to read on. Once you click onto a site, the clicks become revenue generators for suspect web hosts and their authors. In almost all cases, the headlines are false or at the very least, misleading. One of the most notorious examples being, “He Found a Cure for Cancer with This Pill. Now Doctors Hate Him.”

If it seems ridiculous. Then it is!

PegsStep 2. Keep it clean.

One news site proclaiming to be the ‘truth,’ ran the headline, “CNN: ‘Drunk Hillary’ Beat Sh**t Out of Bill Clinton on Election Nite.” This headline is not only crass and illiterate but holds three glaring examples of bad journalism.

First, quoting another news competitor. This would never happen. When have you ever seen or heard of a media competitor mentioned on your favourite broadcast or news site? Unless, as in this case, where you want to deflect the chance of libel when calling Hillary a ‘drunk.’

Then there is the use of profanity. If and when a reputable news organization would need to include profanity, it would be prefaced with a disclaimer. And how about that spelling? Yes, Webster may differ from Oxford, but certainly not when aligning to journalistic writing standards as American Press or Canadian Press guidelines.

Guidelines and standards are the vanguards for quality and journalistic integrity.

News SiteStep 3. With integrity come standards.

With any credible news, the first part of developing a story is fact checking. Be it checking sources or proofing data, by executing this due diligence, your news integrity will gain the trust needed to be YOUR reliable source of information. In Canada, privately held news providers and their social media properties, are held to journalistic ethics by the standards of both the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council. As for public broadcasting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, represent its ethical framework. All under the approval of the Canadian government’s own watchdog, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.  In print, including many of their online properties, the Canadian Association of Journalists provides similar guidelines and standards. Collectively, these represent the standards of journalism you would expect for news gathering integrity. If you find some of your local news feeds are not following these guidelines, then call them out.  Hold them accountable.

Believe me, their advertisers would not want to be in the middle of a fake news scandal.

SkunkFake news stinks.

Practising these three simple steps in fake news prevention will put you back into the driver’s seat when getting your news.  Remember, trust is gained. Like a bad piece of meat, if smells off then throw it out. Why should your news be any different?

Fake news stinks!

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Integrated media planning. A vital part of your advocacy outreach.

Photo Courtesy of the Internet Archive C.C.

Photo Courtesy of the Internet Archive C.C.

Picking the Right Tools.

There is an old parlour game called, “I packed my bag to Saratoga.” Seated around a table a group of folks pass along a short story whispered into each other’s ear. By the time the story has been rehashed through six or more participants, its narrative has changed significantly. Socks become nylons and soap bars becomes chocolate bars. It’s not because each player is a bad storyteller, it’s the plain fact that each person hears only what they deem important to the narrative. As human beings, we are used to hearing stories relevant to ourselves and the community in which we live. When it comes to living a better life, we are eager to share with others.

This inherent ability to advocate good and tell an important story is in all of us. Only the dynamic of a community will change. Have you not called your local councillor to promote an increase in play space for your kids at the local park? Discuss an article in the newspaper with your neighbour about yet another tax hike? Or shared a news story on Facebook that challenges the need for more infrastructure renewal – in other words, better roads? These are all forms of advocacy with one critical component, a clear and informed voice promoting enhancement or improvements for all.

Photo Courtesy of Ivan C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Ivan C.C.

Where is your audience?

Finding the right voice to carry your message can be difficult for many advocates. Once you have ear-marked your target audience, where are the conversations happening? Are they on the news at 6, or written as an opinion piece within your community newspaper?

As individuals and communities start their advocacy campaigns, many are now asking where do policy makers get their information so they understand the importance of your position. There is a universe of conversation happening right now due to technologies offering easier access to information. Mining the right channel to receive information is becoming more complex. Especially in many CMA (city metropolitan areas) communities, where multiple languages and customs can add a complexity new to many media professionals in Canada.  Then there are digital platforms representing certain demographic preferences. Is social media the right space to have your voice?

This may sound complex but if we go back to the fundamentals of media relations and its strategies, it makes logical sense.

Photo Courtesy of Andy Rankin C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Andy Rankin C.C.

Media’s Brick and Mortar

When promoting policy and programs to particular audiences, strategic media is routinely used to encourage public conversations and debate. When used effectively, this process will generate an engaged community and aid grassroots support.  Strategizing your media plan will help you define your goals towards developing an appreciation for the policy or campaign. Equally, strategic media identifies what needs to be done to take down all the barriers towards compliance and stakeholder adoption. Media is also helpful when sharing research to arm your influencers and change leaders with facts to support your campaign. Coffee shop conversations with the right facts can be a persuasive tactic when practising grassroots advocacy.

How policymakers and the general public understand and resolve the challenges faced by their communities is guided by the quality of information provided to their advocates. Today, more than ever, media takes a leading role in making this happen. Media relations is no longer hammering out media releases and fostering sustainable relationships with media partners. Each media channel, traditional, digital or social, plays a strategic part when reaching specific audiences and informing potential advocates.

Producing and fostering advocacy through the media involves four key processes:

  1. Build the Foundation

Your media strategy should fully integrate all government, stakeholder and issue planning. It’s imperative that media is a part of these campaign strategies. Not just as a tactical component to implement your plan, but also within objectives, research, key message methodologies and measurement. Media will offer you an opportunity to ‘amp-up the noise’ in each functional part of the campaign or initiative.

  1. Position the Right Partners

Identify the essential supporter(s) of the issue and frame the voice, or narrative, around this person or persons. This is dependent on which supporters are best aligned to deliver the biggest impact. It’s important to note that impact in one media channel, may not necessarily be as ‘loud’ than on another media channel. For example, if we look at a medical issue or policy rooted in senior care; you would use traditional media (broadcast, print and radio) as these audiences represent a conducive community to watch the news, read the paper or listen to the radio. Your spokesperson would be a trusted leader known to stakeholders within this segment.

Conversely, if your campaign is based in teen mental health issues, you are then concentrating on who would be the best to carry your message forward. Social media will then take a leading role in your strategy. Your voice will come from various subject matter experts which in turn offer influence to their followers. They will be trusted by this audience to carry the voice forward. Unlike traditional media, social engagement is more immediate and offers quicker behavioural traits to help modify your key messaging.

  1. Research

Having short, clear and factual data to support your issue or campaign is critical for your planning. Cold hard facts rule when trying to put across a point or winning credibility and eventual acceptance. This can only be brought forward by spending the time up front to research your audiences and their behaviours. Utilize stakeholder and government research for segmented behaviours to craft messages and themes relative to this audience. Look for trends through the media that either support or oppose the issue or campaign. On social media, conduct regular audits to monitor issues and tone.

  1. Plan and Measure

With your foundation in place, your supporters identified and your research complete, you are now ready to create your plan. Adding to your foundation work, media planning today often will reflect methodologies of change management. Change is no longer a phenomenon but a fact. Governments, societies, groups, etc., are constantly changing. As a media planner, you must be aware of change within the media and within your stakeholder community. Tie-in your goals and objectives to reflect the capability for change – at any time. Plotting your objectives along a timeline will help you keep the plan time-bound. If change is foreseeable, plot it accordingly. S.M.A.R.T. (strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) objectives offer guidance when developing your plan. Measurement, both qualitative and quantitative, will offer the data necessary to adjust your plan along the planning continuum; then monitor, monitor, monitor.

How Not To Be Seen



2016. The Year to Manage Negative News.

There is No Grey in Black

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

No bones about it, 2015 was a year chock full of headlines and sound bites soaked in cruelty and barbarism. Some so unspeakable and horrific, discussions are rare and often muted. If you followed the news in 2015, this world of ours is becoming evermore unkind and gloomy. Mainstream media continues its duty-bound charge by providing us with stories draped in catastrophe and human suffering.

But is the tone and narrative of news any different from past years?

Granted, 2015 increased its volume of terrorist atrocities but is news any more negative year over year? Is the media taking an active role in sanctioning mental health issues?

In the Associated Press (AP) – Times Square Alliance survey to Americans, it is of no surprise that so many surveyed are having a hard time finding the good in the world.

57% feel the year as a whole is worse than last year. Up from 38% from 2014.

When looking to their own lives on a personal level, 29 % believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 % feel it was worse, compared with 15 % in 2014.

Of those polled, 68% said mass shootings were most important. Then the Paris terror attacks at 64% and finally, ISIL, ISIS activities at 63%.

Can all this adverse news be taking a toll on our positive mind-set?

The decades-old media trope, “If it bleeds, it leads,” rings truer now than ever. Mass shootings and terrorism continue to wet the media’s insatiable appetite for measurable advertising points. And most certainly this proclivity for fear-driven fare is going nowhere. To be fair, this is their job and their moral obligation.

Finding the Light in the Dark

Light in tunnel

Photo Courtesy of David Anderson CC

As viewers, and more importantly humans, we must filter out this harmful habit of digesting bad news and look for the good in all stories. Yes even terror – somehow. Not an evangelical approach to watching news, but a more cathartic and healthier way towards viewing and processing all the bad out there.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, “We can complain that the rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”

It’s all about how you look at it.

Living our lives day-to-day we craft personal values to help guide us through adversity and hard times. These annual tenets are well fastened to both our work and personal lives. Drawing parallels from bad to good are how we navigate issues and problems on a daily basis. We process the heinous and abominable with the understanding that good (more than often) will triumph.

We are human beings and naturally seek the silver lining in all. We need to approach negative news content the same way.

Putting Our News Into Defined Perspective.

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Many times our individual problems are magnified by what we see as an inconvenience or annoyance. More than often they are not significant problems as we are not processing them correctly. Within the right perspective. Personal bias clouds and distorts the issue and presents it as traumatic. If we take the time to offer further reflection, these same issues may not be as serious as originally thought.

With this analysis, here’s a thought…

We still enjoy getting our local news. What are the Jones’ doing? What is your councillor saying now? What about that new hospital wing? Where did the funds come from? Local news is easy and comforting to process. It’s safe – generally, and allows us to be informed at a speed and tone manufactured by us and acceptable to most. The good is easier to see as it is not immersed in multiple layers of politics, religion, or societal prejudice.

Let’s bring that micro-focus to world events. What if we relate each negative news item to how we receive our local news? Understand the themes and narratives and draw comparisons to our own lives. This ability to compare our everyday issues and crises to what is going on in the world would provide us with a practical more positive account for deeply depressing news.

Here is an example I experienced this past year:

Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees. (The Guardian September 3, 2015)

Quintessentially the most disturbing and haunting image and accompanying story of 2015. Even today it is hard to look at the photo that changed how the West acted on the Syrian refugee crisis. I know myself when I saw this during breakfast, I gasped and looked away quickly. Was this real? Had the Syrian refugee issue become this bad? We all know the answer to these questions but continue to look for reasons why it happened.

It’s time to start paying attention to the election. (East York Mirror September 3, 2015)

That evening, as I live in East York, Toronto, the weekly neighbourhood tabloid newspaper dropped onto my porch. Right there plain as day on the editorial page was an opinion piece on the upcoming election. I instantly remembered that immigration and the strife of the Syrians was a platform issue for one of the parties vying for my vote.* This offered me a direct and actionable correlation. I could process this mornings image knowing I can help make a difference so this doesn’t happen again by categorizing my vote.

I searched for a redeeming factor within the news item and plugged it into my own world. By associating the events in Europe with my local news, helped ‘softened the blow’ and allowed me to process this news positively and with hope that things will change.

Illuminate Your News

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

We zoom out of our closed worlds to watch, listen and read about heinous events in relative comfort knowing they are half-a-world-away. Consciously or subconsciously, this frustrates us into a feeling of mental exhaustion spurred by helplessness and inaction. We keep ourselves from looking for the good that can happen, by finding the light in the dark.

In 2016, as either a news junky or nonchalant viewer, we need to take the time to believe that you can find the good in the news. No matter how bad it is.

*Note: In October of 2015, Canada ushered in a new government whose platform was centred on accepting more refugees to Canada.

What Direction Now for Media’s Moral Compass?

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan LaChance CC

Editor’s Note:
Has filling today’s media gullet with “all things Trump,” reduced the role media MUST take when protecting personal information? And if it has, is it complicit when promoting unfavourable national agendas as the recent immigration policy in the States?

Below are my thoughts when this issue popped its ugly head a few years back after the San Bernardino terror event.

— Repost from the summer of 2015

Is Ethical Journalism Dead?

Evidently so if recent events are any indication.

Last week, MSNBC, CNN and other various local affiliates decided to forego ethical behaviour to enrich their coverage of America’s worst mass murder in almost three years. While the world slowly untangled the news of more gun violence coming from the States, local, national and international media decided to follow another lead.

This lead brought them – literally – to the front doorstep of another smaller but important story – media ethics and privacy.

As a person who makes his living creating media strategies, I was shocked to witness what happened last week as mob mentality overruled the tenets of responsible journalism.

Many questions continue to arise from this yellow day in media. Has the pressure to make the ‘6’ cast aside the ability of journalists to practice ethics? Has the voracious appetite for news content every minute of the day erased the parameter of respectable news gathering?

Privacy and Snoops


Photo Courtesy of Gianfranco Marzetti CC

We understand the media has the tendency to be intrusive. Equally, some intrusion into privacy can be essential towards informing the public. Responsible reporting has the ability to grow the story by telling an accurate account of the event or happening. It is only when we cross this line that media is presented with an ethical dilemma.

How much information do we share so the viewer is informed?

In the case of terror suspects Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, personal assets including passport documents, social security cards, photographs and worst of all, a baby’s crib, were displayed in HD splendour. Why these items were still on site and not in FBI inventory is a puzzle, but was there really the need for viewers to know the colour of the baby’s onesie? Thereby offering a clue to his/her identity? What about the photographs containing images of other persons that have not released their image to the media? Are they elemental to the right of information versus the right of privacy?

Absolutely not. And yet reporters took the effort to lay these items out to solicit sensational viewership.

Interpretation of Policy

Bull Horn_Fotor

Photo Courtesy of The Library of Congress CC

Here in Canada, individual media by practice have their own ethical guidelines that stipulate particular behaviour in newsgathering. By example, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Journalistic Standards and Practices states under “Fairness, ‘In our information gathering and reporting, we treat individuals and organizations with openness and respect. We are mindful of their rights. We treat them even-handedly.’”

It makes you wonder if the language was intentionally vague to support more leverage when intruding on personal privacy.

The Canadian Association of Journalist expands on CBC’s guideline by adding, “However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.”

Let’s look at the last part of this statement, “Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.” With the understanding, I am basing my criticism on Canadian ethos of journalism, did the BBC, MSNBC, et al in San Bernardino, have ‘common sense’ when videotaping photographs of persons not associated with the two suspects? It’s also important to note, the suspects were not deemed terrorists by the FBI until the 5th of December.

And let’s not forget the ‘relevance’ of videotaping the washroom. Remember only psychos and murderers have messy washrooms! Right?

Language is Everything

Wires 1

Photo Courtesy of Nathalie Capitan CC

A day following the San Bernardino media circus, The Society of Professional Journalists in the States released a statement saying, “Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

A statement carefully crafted not to call down the recent exploits of its members, but merely a gentle slap on the wrist.

What message does this send out to the general public when dealing with media? How can the public continue to trust the media to withhold their privacy with no recourse to improper process?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) one of the media members reporting the San Bernardino suspects home, and one of the most respected international news organizations, seem to be very clear regarding their broadcast privacy policy, “The BBC will respect privacy and will not infringe on it without good reason, wherever in the world we are operating. Private behaviour, information, correspondence and conversation will not be brought into the public domain unless there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

The language almost completely supports the broadcaster having the last say whether, “there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

Clearly, broadcasters and media have a job to do by informing the public of issues and incidents that may impact their safety and well-being. The problem lies in the interpretation of ‘responsibility’ when privacy is concerned. As shown in California, the ethical process was unfettered and improvident. Not a single ounce of ‘responsibility’ was practised by any broadcaster that day.



The privacy of an individual continues to be centre regarding this issue, but what happens when the breach is reflective of an entire culture or religion? Especially relevant in these days of terror.

In the San Bernardino experience, we see ONE particular lifestyle on display – not all. But alas, the media in their frenzy to parlay any form of ethical behaviour in favour of ratings, paraded various artefacts including the Koran in front of the world. Sound bites emphasised these were ‘Muslim’ items and emblazoned this information across the TV screen.

A reckless exercise creating a stigma that all American ‘Muslim’ apartments contain the same contents and ideology.

Fortunately, many self-respecting Americans immediately lashed back through Twitter with the hashtag #MuslimApartment or #MyMuslimApartment. Their tweets offered the world a glimpse inside their homes sharing personal property as American football jerseys and Disney play figures. A resolute statement from American Muslims proud of their nationality and quick to remind the media not to forget, “…common sense, humanity and relevance,” when reporting their stories.

The media are integral to the business of sharing information for the public’s well-being. As citizens, we just need reassurance that the media follow the same set of common sense privacy guidelines we use every day. Especially in times of terrorism and mistrust.

Hold On. Where are the Facts Ma’am?

How can we trust media when they get the facts wrong and don’t use subject matter experts?

Dragnet’s Jack Webb said it best, ‘All We Want Are The Facts.’ A simple question based on extracting the truth while at the same time building trust. Yes, the 50’s was a completely different time. Attaining the truth was a regular non-occurrence due to a cold war instilling a culture of neurosis and paranoia in both entertainment and news broadcasting. Surely fifty odds years later we have broken down those barriers and are getting our news from a trustworthy source. Right?

It sure doesn’t look that way.

The recent CNN reporting of a ‘Top Secret Ebola Serum Given to U.S. Patients’ piece represents an unfortunate example of how ‘scoop’ trumps ethics in news broadcasting. You will notice the lead uses a term – ‘top secret.’ Top secret eh… Are they saying that only U.S. patients are able to use this serum? A CIA and M6 backed regime are transporting it now as we watch?

Here we go again…

In media planning we all strive to move away from the use of sensational jargon when writing our headlines. In this case not essentially an ethical misstep, but certainly an issue management faux pas. Using an exclusive and emotional term as ‘top secret’ in a highly apprehensive story as the Ebola crisis in Africa, was seen by many, most prolifically medical experts, as irresponsible, sensational and not looking at the facts.

Reuters’ health expert Andrew M. Seaman, quickly dispatched a tweet with the headline: Experimental Not Equal to Secret in an attempt to inject professional credibility and reduce panic to CNN’s story.

The question arises for media experts to ask,

‘Is the practice of using sensational language ethical and acceptable in news reporting?’

In this example, does the medical community view broadcast ethics through a finer lens than mainstream media? Is that important?

You bet it is. It should be common practice to follow the medical example when writing highly sensitive and emotive stories. You would be hard pressed to find a doctor readily using phrasing as ‘top secret’ in their report as it delivers a message of secrecy, exclusivity and privilege. Doctors are the stanchest advocates for equal access to cures and remedies and actively support a universal application to treating maladies, illnesses et al. Certainly not something akin to top secret.

At the end of the day, it’s all about selling advertising time on the broadcast. We get this, but at what cost to the public?

Does this mean mainstream news broadcasting will continue to circumvent media relations’ best practices as using real facts and subject matter experts to attain ratings?

In media relations, we are often tasked to check our facts not once, but twice, and to always have an expert ready to back them up. No expert to corroborate the facts. No interview. This rings true in all stories that are based in subject matters needing the facts checked and validated by industry experts. After all, as communications professionals it is our credibility on the line, right?

Let’s look at the other major U.S. news network, Fox; recognized for its conservative editorial and lip service to the far right. Fox has been caught recently not fact checking or to that matter, bringing in experts to corroborate their editorial scripting. In Fox News is cited many times for their on-air talent making unfounded and sometime ridiculous statements. Ludicrous yes, but sad in the fact that a whole whack of folks watching them think what the talent is saying is gospel.

Has all this unethical news reporting hurt the trust scores at the major networks?

CNN’s credibility in light of recent gaffs still rings in with a remarkable 60% honest and reliable and thereby trusted compared to Fox at 60% false or partially false. Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer has mainstream media broadcast sitting at 65% trusted. Conversely, most western nations range at a lower rate of trust compared to last year.

So there you have it. Just the facts. As blogged about in ‘Who Says News is Dead’ broadcast news is far from going the way of the dodo but at a level much lower than before.

Joe Friday knew that truth has the ability to show itself when the facts are clearly presented. Let’s hope the producers of major news gathering affiliates will somehow have the foresight to catch Joe Friday one late night and hear those essential words in his most famous speech: ‘A quirk in the Law.’

John K. Bromley


Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

Developing and executing strategic media relations, more than often sits at the core of key competencies as public affairs, communications and Public Relations (PR) professionals. We are hired to bring optimal results when using media to leverage particular needs to advantage either profit or not-for-profit ventures.

In the past, most media strategies would encompass a combination of communications tactics designed to speak directly to your targeted audience. Ever since H.S. Adams asked in 1902 the obligatory question, ‘What is publicity?’ many are still asking. Twenty one years after Adams, Edward Bernays continued this line of thinking in his book, ‘Crystallizing Public Relations,’ were he qualified the essence of public relations as, ‘…the freedom to persuade or suggest.’

Today, persuasion continues to drive communications by using particular tactics to gain influence. This is true whether to advance policy or sell shoes. This assertion is a constant but how we build and cultivate this influence is changing everyday – especially in digital and social media.

Social media, as part of a strong digital strategy, has provided communicators an abundance of targeted audiences, all indelibly linked by their preferred communities and affiliations. Richard D. Lewis’ ‘When Cultures Collide,’ mentions this ‘gift of community’ to also include small groups of influencers or advocates ready and willing to take your message forward and forward, and forward. You get the idea.

As media experts, we must be implicit with our intent that all media relations planning will include a social media component. By hard-wiring a digital strategy – including social media – into your media event goals and objectives, you will tap into this relatively new landscape offering many rewards.

No longer is it enough to merely contact print, broadcast or online news media to pitch your events. We owe it to our clients to bring innovation to our results by utilizing the many benefits of social media.

In my experience as a media relations expert, here is a short list to help you get the toes firmly within your digital footprint when developing your media strategy.

Top 8 Reasons Why You MUST Use Social Media in Your Media Relations Strategy

  1. Content: Good news content will often persuade but not necessarily market. News media is very different than simply marketing products to particular customers. Your original pitch to journalists must include the array of online content being provided as part of your planned digital media outreach. Make sure your story is compelling and dynamic by using content to support, not sell, your editorial needs.
  2. Credibility: Recommendations from credible sources is fundamental to your news story gaining ‘legs’ online. A credible reporter quoting a knowledgeable and respected spokesperson offers distribution of trust in your story to both online communities and followers. This will provide you ‘social proof’ your efforts are getting noticed online. Don’t forget, at the same time you are developing community.
  3. Reciprocity: There is no greater realm for human interaction than social media. Interacting and socializing is a primal need for all of us. Part of this need is to share what is good with others. A news story can be shared as a positive gesture by giving back this information to your community so they have the ability, as you did, to support and recommend to others.
  4. Teach: In traditional media we spend long days grooming our media partners to understand our business. This priority should not change with your social media approach. Educating not just your media partner but also your influencers is critical to maintaining a robust social media contact list. Take the time to work with them online and they will be invaluable to you for future endeavours.
  5. Storytelling: You have heard this time and time again how important your ability to tell a fascinating and relevant story is to gaining influence and advocacy in your media approach. If you don’t take the time to develop a narrative, they will bail and you will never see them again – in about 3 seconds online.
  6. Transparency: Whether your media outreach is a photo op, presser, editorial board or launch event, it is all about building trust BEFORE you pitch. Working your social media channels by cultivating relationships will help frame your trust with each of your community managers, followers or advocates. They will extol this forward in 14 characters or less.
  7. Community: Building community that celebrates aligned goals is imperative in any communication or public affairs outreach. This is especially true in large urban cities containing a multitude of different cultures. Each of which will expect a clear understanding of its people and their individual heritage. Online is no different. Categorizing different communities and their cultures will help you establish respect and consideration to advance your media goals. Although these diverse communities are coming online at a slower rate, they will be plentiful shortly and it’s best get a jump on this now.
  8. Access: In the American Press Institute’s research, 42% of online adults use multiple social media networking devices. Out of this, 73% use these devices to get their news and over half will create their own ‘personal news cycle’ by configuring news alerts. It is imperative as professionals we abide this new behaviour with our planning and execution.

I know I said eight reasons, but really one of the more obvious factors around why all media outreach should include an active social media component.

 53% of registered journalists in the U.S. have 500+ followers on Twitter and 55% of their workday is consumed within social media.

Heck, it’s now half their job!