February 23, 2010
by Dan Ward
I absolutely love this line from Buffalo News TV Critic Alan Pergament, explaining why he took several days to write about the use of “unconfirmed reports” in recent news stories:
I tend to do something that is increasingly rare and practically impossible to do in media circles these days: think before acting.
Pergament was speaking specifically of news reports the previous week about a potential gunman on the University of Buffalo campus, news reports that were spurred by text messages and Facebook/Twitter posts.
Though the university and police were unable to confirm rumors of a gunman (as the story points out, no gunman was found, and there were no reports of shots fired), local media ran with the story. Act first, ask questions later.
My first instinct was to bash those outlets for airing unconfirmed rumors that could have started a panic. But as Pergament points out, that ship has sailed. “Local TV stations and newspapers practically have no choice now but to address rumors for fear that they will look foolish if what they ignore turns out to be true,” he writes.
So I’ve given up thinking that traditional media will stop trying to compete with 100 million Facebook news feeds and instead serve as a voice of reason.
Instead, I see it as more important than ever that we as professional communicators take on that role. Like the news media, we must be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice to emerging social media reports, but we can’t lose sight of our responsibility to avoid speculation and report factual information. We have a responsibility to our clients, our organizations and the public to follow Pergament’s example, and think before acting.
February 10, 2010
by Dan Ward
PalmGate. The Palm Prompter. Hand-y Reminders. Palm-It Notes.
The media pundits are really handing it (sorry) to Sarah Palin over her use of handwritten (literally) notes during a Tea Party Q&A.
The use of notes doesn’t bother me at all, though I’m curious why nobody in Palin’s camp could scrounge up a 3×5 card or two. Using notes should not be an issue; the issue is writing “hidden” notes in the style of a middle schooler cheating on a biology exam.
Let’s face facts. Reporters use notes, politicians at all levels use notes and Teleprompters. Candidates are allowed pen and paper to take notes during Presidential Debates. Notes are OK. They’re acceptable. Why try to hide the fact that you believe communicating key messages is important?
In our Message Matrix® training sessions, we encourage people to use notes … not for scripted responses but as reminders of issues and key points to address. When our clients make presentations, we prepare notes for them to help them stay on track. When I present, serve on a panel or pitch new business, I bring notes along.
When you’re prepared, you can hold an audience in the palm of your hand. Just make sure they’re not reading from it.
February 3, 2010
by Roger Pynn
Now here’s an essay on the state and fate of the news media worth reading if you care to see how confused our world has become.
There’s a statement at the end about the difference between fact and fantasy I had to read and re-read, asking myself “does the writer really remember the tenets of journalism … or know the difference between reportage and opinion?”
“The world will not be a better place when these fact-based news organizations die. We will be propelled into a culture where facts and opinions will be interchangeable, where lies will become true, and where fantasy will be peddled as news. I will lament the loss of traditional news. It will unmoor us from reality. The tragedy is that the moral void of the news business contributed as much to its own annihilation as the protofascists who feed on its carcass.”
The writer begins another paragraph with the words “Real reporting, grounded in a commitment to justice and empathy…” but I’ll be damned if any journalism teacher I ever had urged me to make such a pledge. My job as a reporter was to seek out information and report it … without getting myself emotionally involved.
To suggest that objectivity killed the news is like suggesting that the practice of medicine is responsible for death because some people die in surgery.
There’s too much crap parading as news today that doesn’t deserve to be called journalism.
Unfortunately, many practitioners in newsrooms today are so engaged with proponents on one side or opponents on the other that they fail to report on the issue and instead write to beat readers into submission on behalf of the side with which they are either intellectually or emotionally aligned.
That’s what killed news.
February 3, 2010
by Roger Pynn
I’d never thought about it before, but watching a professional management coach friend of mine in action the other day made an important impression: very successful executives can benefit from advice from the sidelines … just like a base runner waiting at third for a chance to steal home.
I learned a long time ago that successful consulting involves helping a client find the right solution, rather than telling them what will work. I rarely know enough going in to be able to hand a client the answer. We have to work together, explore alternatives and select the best option based on careful analysis.
I work in an area where seeking outside help is common … and I love the successes we have. There’s no question that being asked into an organization is flattering … and the rewards go way beyond financial. Seeing results that make clients smile is a unique paycheck.
When an executive is humble enough to seek a coach to help them improve their overall performance, they’ve said “I don’t know it all, I’m not perfect just because I’m the boss and I’m going to get someone that can help me be even better.”
A management coach who tries to tell their client what to do is doomed to failure … just like a college football coach who belittles a young player trying to learn the game. One who reminds and prods with subtle hints and leading questions is sure to produce hall of fame players.
Business may not be a game but both sports and business require strategy … and a good coach helping you keep an eye on your plan can be a real game changer.
February 2, 2010
by Roger Pynn
The value of interns in our business has never been a question. At present count two of our staff started with Curley & Pynn as interns … and they are tremendous young public relations professionals.
Two weeks ago we were fortunate to be finalists in the competition for the public relations needs of a client we really wanted to win. We were competing against three other finalists … all great firms that we truly respect.
When we walked into the room to present our approach, we were greeted by a room full of people who enthusiastically reached out to introduce themselves and put us at ease instantly … one-by-one standing to shake our hands and introduce themselves.
Imagine our surprise when we got to the next-to-last individual and a smiling young woman rose to say “you probably don’t remember me, but I’m Loretta Shaffer and I interned for you 14 years ago. I loved Curley & Pynn.”
There was no forgetting Loretta … an always happy and energetic young woman who we knew from her first day as an intern was destined for success. And, here she was, now the director of marketing for a major tourism development organization. She asked piercing questions and made solid observations. She shared insight with us. She was passionate about her product.
We are, too … so pleased to be reunited with a former associate as we take on the work of representing the Beaches of South Walton on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast … Florida’s premier collection of 15 beautiful beaches known for their sugary white sand, an eclectic group of beachfront communities and soon the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport that will open up incredible experiences for freedom seekers everywhere.