By Gerard Braud
News media copycats make life more difficult in the world of crisis communications and public relations. More than ever before, your small crisis can get undue media coverage because of the latest disturbing media trend.
Disturbing news media trend #2 is the breaking news trend. CNN is the king of using the “breaking news” banner and verbal exclamation by their news anchors. Fox News is the king of using the phrase “news alert.” But it doesn’t take long, in the land of few original ideas, also known as TV news land, for other news stations to copy what they see the “big boys” are doing. Local television stations open nearly every newscast with both verbal and graphic exclamations, proclaiming the first story of the newscast as breaking news.
As a former journalist, during my time in the television news business, “breaking news” was used to describe an event that was happening or “breaking” at that very second. A fire, an explosion, a shooting are breaking news.
Sadly, this new disturbing trend slaps the breaking news moniker on whatever the first story of the newscast is, even if the event happened hours before. In many cases the issue is already resolved with no new information.
In other words, the breaking news is not breaking and breaking news is broken.
During CNN’s non-stop speculation coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370, CNN even proclaimed breaking news about, “new speculation about what might have happened.” Yes, CNN combined two disturbing media trends at the same time – the breaking news trend combined with the excessive speculation trend. It was truly a low point in the world of television news.
This disturbing trend toward excessive use of the breaking news banner has profound effects on every corporation, non-profit organization or government agency, and their public relations teams. Things that are little crises might easily get portrayed as a much bigger crisis.
How do you deal with this? Your crisis communications plan, your media interview skills, and your media monitoring need to be better than they have ever been. Your need to respond quickly as soon as an event occurs is more important than ever. You can’t afford to linger in your response and allow the media to blow things out of proportion.
Now is the time to:
1) revise your crisis communications plan
2) make sure a crisis communications drill is conducted at least once a year, which includes mock news conferences
3) make sure all spokespeople go through media training at least once a year
4) make sure you are using the latest media monitoring tools (I’m super impressed with the I.Q. Media platform)