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Media Training 5: The Media are Biased

By Gerard Braud

www.braudcommunications.com

There is much debate about whether the media are biased; especially whether there is a liberal bias. If you truly want to explore that subject, I suggest you read the book Bias by Bernard Goldberg.

It has been my experience over the years that much of what is perceived as bias is really the result of the following:

• Editors send reporters out of the door armed with only partial facts or rumors

• The reporters and editors have misconceptions or misperceptions about you or your issues

• A competitor or opponent of yours has approached the media and only told them half of the story

• Ignorance by the reporter

All four of the above result in the reporter calling you, asking for an interview, and asking you negative questions, putting you in a defensive posture.

Let’s break it down.

Partial facts are usually the result of rumors and innuendos. We all share rumors every day. “Hey, you know what I heard today…?”  In the newsroom, a reporter or editor turns that rumor into a research project and must confirm or refute it. “Hey Gerard, I heard a rumor today that… Why don’t you go check it out?”

That rumor would become my assignment for the day. If there is a rumor that the mayor is on cocaine, then I try to prove that the mayor is using cocaine. If he is, it is a story. If he isn’t, then there is no story.  If the rumor is that the married congressman has a girlfriend, then I try to prove the congressman has a girlfriend. If it is true, I have a story. If I can’t prove it, then there is no story.

You may not like it, but it is the nature of the business.

The next issue is very similar; it’s the impact of a misconception or misperceptions. Often this is purely subjective. Perhaps you are proposing a new development, but something just seems shady. Then the news report may likely reflect a tone of skepticism. The reporter may even seek out a 3rd party who is willing to cast further doubt on your project or credibility.

On the issue of opponents — I’ve watched many opponents make compelling cases and provide an enormous amount of supporting material and a hefty helping of innuendo. In the U.S. they’re often called “opposition groups” while around the world they are called “NGOs,” which stands for non-government organizations.

Usually the members of these groups are very passionate about a specific issue and those issues may be considered liberal issues. If a member of one of these groups makes a compelling case to a reporter, they could trigger a news report about you or your company. The reporter may come armed with reams of documentation supplied by the opponent, placing you in a defensive position. The resulting story could portray you in a very negative light.

And the final issue is ignorance by the reporter. Sometimes reporters just get the wrong idea about something and pursue it as a negative story. For example, most reporters look at steam belching from an industrial facility and think they are seeing pollution. Hence, they may do a story about industry polluting and fill the report with images of the stack belching what looks like smoke.

When you are faced with a situation like this, you need to apply all the tricks from lesson one, which includes explaining everything to them in simple terms the way you would explain it to a 6th grade class at career day.

Chances are the media are not “out to get you.” But somebody else may be out to get you and they are letting the media do their dirty work.

In our next lesson we’ll talk about how you can predict what questions are reporter will ask you in an interview.

 

 

Ebola Crisis Communications Lesson: Ask for Help

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudOf all the Power Point presentations by his leadership team members, the CEO only stood and applauded the vice president who showed he was having difficulties in his division, when the other vice presidents showed rainbows and green lights. The company was millions in debt with falling sales and the CEO knew that everyone who painted a rosy picture was either a liar or delusional. The one who asked for help was the star.

A colleague shared this story supporting my premise in yesterday’s Ebola communication considerations blog. In the blog I suggested that public relations, marketing, media relations and crisis communication professionals will not be fired if they ask for help. Instead, your CEO and leadership team will respect you for telling the truth and knowing that your truth may save the reputation and revenue of your organization.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braudThe field of communications is misunderstood, even by the C-Suite. Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. They expect publicity. Often the CEO will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Sadly, many with MBAs don’t really understand the differences either.

Even in public relations, many do not realize how difficult it is to be a crisis communication expert. The expert is the one who prepares on a clear sunny day for what might happen on your darkest day. At the university level, most public relations classes touch on crisis communication as an evaluation of how well you manage the media after a crisis erupts. That is outdated and flawed. Preparation = professionalism.

Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge and expertise rather than asking for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue.

Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue.

Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Ask for help.

If you’d like some FREE help, join me on Friday, October 17, 2014 for a free webinar that explores what you need to do today to prepare for your possible Ebola communications tomorrow. Register here.

 

— By Gerard Braud

5 Ebola Crisis Communications Considerations

By Gerard Braud

5 Ebola Considerations Gerard Braud

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Your personality type may decide the fate of your crisis communication response if the Ebola crisis touches your company (or the company for your work for.) On one extreme is the personality that says, “It’s too soon. Maybe we should watch it and wait and see.” On the other extreme are those who say, “Heck, let’s get prepared. I’d rather be prepared and not need it than to be in the weeds if it hits us.”

If one of your employees gets Ebola or is perceived to possibly have Ebola or may have come in contact with an Ebola patient or a place where an Ebola victim has been or has come in contact with a person who came in contact with an Ebola victim, then the crisis now affects you.

Here are 5 Ebola Crisis Communication Considerations:

1) The Need is Real

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudThe crisis may touch your organization because of a person who is actually ill or because of rumors or hysteria. Either option may really happen, forcing you into reactive communications mode. You’ll need solid internal employee communications and customer communications. You’ll need external media relations. You’ll need to fight the trolls and naysayers on social media. Why not start planning your strategy and messaging now? My belief and experience is that you can anticipate nearly every twist and turn on a clear sunny day, in order to manage effective communications on your darkest day.

2) Ask for Help

Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. Often they will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge rather than ask for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue. Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue. Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Ask for help.

3) Tie Ebola Communications to Business ROI

Preparing for communications you may or may not need will cost either time or money. It may cost both. But communications preparation can pay for itself.

Here are just a few considerations of doing nothing:

  •  The cost of rumors
  •  The cost of a single case linked back to your organization
  •  The cost of a cluster of cases linked back to your organization
  •  The cost of becoming synonymous with Ebola
  •  The cost of worker illness and lost productivity
  •  The cost of your company going out of business

Communications about precautions is step one. It may quarantine patient zero in your organization and keep the virus and negative news from spreading, saving the company huge sums of money in all of the categories listed above.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braud4) Plan Now

Don’t wait until you are in the middle of your crisis when you are forced into reactive mode. Proactive mode is the sign of a public relations professional. Now is the time to review your crisis communication plan and to determine if it is Ebola-ready. For some of you, now is the time to write that crisis communications plan that you have never written. Now is also the time to write messaging templates for before, during and after an event. Plus now is the time to conduct media training for potential spokespeople and to conduct a crisis communications drill. Response should be planned and never reactive.

5) Be Opportunistic

If you haven’t been able to get a seat at the table or get executive attention in the past for crisis communications, consider this your golden opportunity.

Opportunities to discuss crisis communications with the CEO and the leadership team do not happen often enough. It takes a crisis that hits all businesses equally to sometimes get their attention. The feared Y2K crisis in 2000 caused CEOs to write checks for millions of dollars, mostly to IT experts. Other companies used it as a reason to develop a small part of their crisis communication plan. Sadly, it was usually targeted at only Y2K issues. The H1N1 threat in 2009 once again got the attention of executives to the extent they were willing to give staff time and money to do what needed to be done.

The opportunity for crisis communication planning and crisis management planning is once again upon us because of Ebola. Now is the time to initiate discussions with your executives. It is also useful to seek partners from other departments. Human Resources, operations, international travel, and risk management departments all will need to manage various portions of this crisis. Each are wonderful partners who may already have a seat at the table and who already may have the knowledge and skill to get the time and money needed to accomplish your tasks.

In the coming week I’ll share more lessons and insight with you. On Friday, October 17, 2014, I’ll host a live discussion via webinar. Sign up for FREE with this link. On November 5 & 6, 2014 I’ll host a workshop in New Orleans that will allow you to create a 50 page crisis communications plan with up to 75 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a finished crisis communication plan and the skill to write even more pre-written news releases.

Ebola Crisis Communication Planning and Crisis Management Planning

EBOLA webinar Gerard Braud

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Is it too soon to talk about your Ebola crisis communications strategies and plan? A New York based public relations professional asked me that question today. I responded by saying, “Why wait? One week ago no one in Dallas gave Ebola crisis communications a second thought. Today, at lease 14 businesses and government entities have to send spokespeople out to talk to the media about their portion of the Ebola crisis.”

I say start getting your Ebola crisis communications plan and crisis management plan in place now. Your Ebola crisis can crop up without warning. Your crisis could result not only from an actual Ebola case, but from the hysteria of false information about a case.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braud

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You may own a business, be the CEO or leader of a business, hospital, school, or non-profit. You may be the public relations or crisis management professional for a business, hospital, school, or non-profit. NOW is the time to realize that it only takes one case of Ebola to be associated with your organization for a world of media attention to descend upon you. Along with media scrutiny and hysteria, you will also have to deal with the online social media trolls. If you skip a beat… if you hesitate… if you are just slightly behind the story or the crisis, the institution you are associated with will be treated like a 19th century leaper – no one will want to have anything to do with you. It becomes the ultimate crisis, defined by complete harm to your reputation and revenue.

Examine the case in Texas, in which Ebola patient Thomas Duncan has died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The airline, the TSA, the Border Patrol, the hospital, the apartment complex, the sheriff’s department, the patient’s church, the school system, the Texas Department of Health, the Texas Governor, the Dallas County Medical Society, the Dallas County Coroner, and the mortuary that cremated his body are all suddenly players having to communicate about some aspect of this crisis. That means thirteen entities that were far removed from the crisis a few days ago are suddenly thrust into the crisis. Fourteen people, if not more, suddenly need to be a spokesperson about their portion of this crisis. Each suddenly needs a crisis communications expert. Even Louise Troh, Duncan’s longtime partner, has retained a public relations firm to speak on her behalf.

The piece-meal communications I’ve seen indicates that each of these entities are having to develop their crisis communication strategy on the fly. If they have a crisis communications plan, it appears none were updated prior to the crisis to address Ebola. In other instances, it is clear that no crisis communication plan exists, which is the reality for many organizations. And experience in reviewing a vast number of documents that public relations people call their crisis communication plan has proven woefully inadequate. In no way do they meet the criteria of a document that would guide and manage communications in a crisis.

Gerard braud Ebola blog 1

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Could you suddenly be a small part of this bigger story? You bet.

Are the odds low? Maybe yes, maybe no?

Could that change quickly because of variables beyond your control? Absolutely.

Is the risk high enough that you should invest time and money to prepare? The vast majority of organizations will say no, because they are in denial about how real the potential threat is. Yet it is a fool’s bet to stay unprepared, when the act of preparing can be done quickly and affordably. Furthermore, when done correctly, you can develop a crisis communications plan that will serve you for Ebola, as well as hundreds of other crises you may face in the future.

Is this line of thought logical? In my world it is very logical. I believe in being prepared. Yet experience tells me that this thought process will be rejected by the vast majority of you reading this and the vast majority of leaders and executives who run corporations, hospitals, non-profit organizations, schools, and small businesses. Human denial is a stronger power than the power to accept a simple option to prepare.

“We don’t need to worry about that,” is easier to say than, “Let’s get a team on this to prepare. The chances are slim, but if it happens it could destroy us.”

“Destroy us?” Is that too strong of a suggestion? Well, two weeks ago the Ivy Apartments in Dallas were a thriving, profitable business. Do you think anyone wants to move into those apartments after an Ebola victim has been there? Do you think existing residents will stay? The owners are already feeling the symptoms of damage to reputation and revenue.

Based on my crisis management and crisis communication experience, don’t be surprised if you see the Ivy Apartment complex bulldozed and the land left vacant for a time, all because they were, through no fault of their own, associated with a global crisis beyond their control.

What are the odds? Very small.

What is the reality? Likely financial ruin.

Are you willing to roll the dice if you own a company? Are you ready to roll the dice if you are the public relations expert for a company?

“Better safe than sorry,” is my suggested approach. Yet, “That won’t happen to us,” or “The chances of that happening to us is so small it isn’t worth our time and effort,” is what the vast majority of organizations will think or say.

In the coming week I’ll share more lessons and insight with you. On Friday, October 17, 2014, I’ll host a live discussion via webinar. Sign up for FREE with this link. On November 5 & 6, 2014 I’ll host a workshop in New Orleans that will allow you to create a 50 page crisis communications plan with up to 75 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a finished crisis communication plan and the skill to write even more pre-written news releases.

I’m available to answer your questions on this issue. Call me at 985-624-9976.

Gerard Braud

The Financial Impact of Failed Crisis Management and Failed Crisis Communications

Radisson logoBy Gerard Braud

What is your plan when the crisis of another entity becomes your crisis, forcing upon you a crisis communications challenge? Observe the NFL crisis as it spreads, causing damage to the reputation and revenue of various teams, players and sponsors.

You would think the NFL would have an inside or outside expert to advise them, but apparently the leadership is trying to manage this on their own, with bad results.

The NFL crisis has spread to the Minnesota Vikings, as sponsor Radisson pulls its support. Radisson is the logo sponsor seen behind the coaches and players when they have news conferences. It is the place where Adrian Peterson’s coach and general manager stood to announce that Peterson would play this coming Sunday, even though he was benched after being charged with felony child abuse for reportedly using a switch on his four-year-old son.

Adrian PetersonRadisson’s online statement says they are evaluating the facts while suspending their sponsorship.

Radisson, likely fearing “guilt by association,” is a victim of failed crisis management and crisis communications by the NFL and Roger Goodell regarding Ray Rice. The crisis then went on to touch the Vikings, Peterson and now the hotel chain.

Had Goodell originally handled the Rice crisis properly, the league would not be under such heavy scrutiny for other players with various degrees of accusations of child or domestic abuse. Failure to manage the crisis then communicate the action plan is letting the smoldering crisis spread like a wild fire. Many people are getting burned.

Now the NFL has a bigger crisis than the original crisis. There are the allegations surrounding Rice and Peterson, as well as Ray Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers.

Each player, each franchise, and the sponsors surrounding the teams, all need a crisis management plan and a crisis communications plan that will end each of their respective crises before each suffers damage to reputation and revenue.

3 Questions to Ask about the Intersection of Crisis Management, Crisis Communication, and Crisis Communications Plans: The NFL

By Gerard Braud

rayrice apAnother crisis management and crisis communication lesson plays out in the NFL as the Associated Press reports the NFL had a copy of the videotape showing Ray Rice punching his fiance in the face.

This exposes a crisis management and crisis communication weakness found in many organizations, which either involves leaders intentionally covering up a crisis or the crisis management team not fully sharing information. This prevents everyone from connecting the dots in a way that results in the best resolution of the crisis and full, honest communications about that resolution.

Here are three questions you can ask today to have a better crisis management and crisis communications plan.

1) When a crisis unfolds, do you have a central hub within the crisis management team in which all information is collected and disseminated to the key decision makers? If there is or was such a system within the NFL, a videotape of the punch would have been shared with the crisis management team. If there is and was a system, then we have a case of unethical behavior, personified by a cover-up and possible lies in media interviews by Roger Goodell.

2) Does your crisis communications plan have a predetermined list of questions that you will ask in every crisis so that everyone is always on the same page? This is one of the most powerful tools you can have and a vital part of all of the crisis communications plans I write.

3) Is there conflict in your organization because ethical decisions about a crisis often take a backseat to legal arguments by lawyers or financial arguments from the CFO? Those arguments often result in everyone taking a vow of silence so the organization doesn’t get sued, resulting in a loss of reputation and revenue. This is the job of communication experts in the room: Connect the dots for everyone else. Focus on the long-term reputational and financial health of the organization by doing the right thing and not the most convenient thing in the short-term.

Smoldering crises like the NFL Ray Rice case often cause various leaders to connect the dots only in a way that is immediately best for their interest, rather than in a way that is best for the long-term health of the organization, its leaders, and in many cases, the victims of the crisis.

Rayrice blog gerard braudFor example, in the case of Penn State, we saw the university fail to expose the crime of sexual abuse out of fear of reputational damage and a loss of revenue. This short-term failure resulted in more boys being victims of sexual abuse, greater reputational harm, a larger financial loss, and top leaders being fired.

In the case of the NFL, many experts believe the only reason the NFL has taken a tough stand on concussions is because of a lawsuit that would damage their reputation and lead to a huge financial loss if the lawsuit went to trial. It was not done years ago when it could have been.

When powerful people hide the facts from the world, as a way to avoid reputational and revenue loss in a crisis, you are witnessing unethical behavior in a crisis. In most cases the secret becomes public, executives get fired, the institution’s reputation is damaged, and revenue is lost. Stay tuned to see what happens with the NFL.

Key Messages That Convey What’s In It For Your Audience: Apple iPhone 6

iphone blog braud iphone blog braudBy Gerard Braud

As I watch the Apple iPhone 6 roll out, I’m hearing lots of technical stuff. That’s great if you are a techno geek who cares about screen size, pixels and data points.

But what does the new iPhone 6 do to make my life better? As a consumer where is the “What’s in it for me?” information.

Many organizations fall into this key message trap when they do media interviews or when executives do presentations. Usually, the presenter, speaker or executive is so thrilled about the many internal goals achieved, they can’t imagine the rest of the world doesn’t also care.

Here are four ways to avoid self-centered presentations and media interviews:

1) Ask the most important question. How does this product, event or initiative make the world a better place for humanity?

This should be your lead statement in a media interview. This should be your opening line on stage in your presentation.

This is important because you have to give the largest audience possible a reason to care. As a consumer, I’m embarrassed that my friends with other phones can wash them under a faucet. Can the new iPhone 6 do that? What about all that broken glass? Have you invented a phone that won’t crack when it gets dropped so I don’t have to buy an Otter Box?

2) Ask, “What is the pain, problem and predicament of the current customer?”

Steve Jobs did this so well when he introduced the concept of the iPod by talking about how hard it was to carry all of your music with you. In those days, having a CD player and a binder full of CDs with you at all times was the pain, problem and predicament. The solution was to have a small device in the palm of your hand that played all of your music.

If I were making the iPhone 6 presentation today, I would have opened the presentation with photos of broke iPhones and images of iPhones in the toilet. My opening line would have been, “Do you have an iPhone 4 that looks like this? Have you ever dropped your phone in the toilet or gotten it wet? Then I’d reveal how the new phone will not fall trap to the old problems… if, in fact they have solved these problems. I really don’t know because I’ve not heard anyone say it yet.

Late in the presentation there have been a few videos that talk about some of the conveniences, such as Apple Pay. But it still falls short of the pain, problem and predicament formula that you must use.

3) Know the personality type of the presenter, speaker or spokesperson. An analytical individual will always go to the data points, as we’re seeing in the iPhone 6 presentation. For the live audience of geeks this may be fine, but the consumer audience will turn off the presentation and fail to make a purchase if you don’t quickly tell us what’s in it for us.

4) Ask for an outside review of your messages before you present them. As a public relations and communications team, it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of the internal excitement. This exemplifies that old expression, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Whether you reach out to PR colleagues who will do it for free or a messaging expert who will charge you a few dollars, their distance as an objective observer will be highly valuable. You can expect that they will be puzzled by your technical jargon and call you out on it.

The most important thing I always ask of these internal teams is, “What does that mean?” This forces the communications team to simplify the messages in a way that a 6th grader can understand it.

In conclusion, keep it simple and tell the audience what’s in it for them. Your sales and revenue depend upon good messaging.

To learn how you can be more effective with your messaging, register for the PRSA Effective Messaging workshop that I’ll be leading in Chicago on November 11, 2014. Learn more here.

 

 

Black Twitter, the Shooting of Michael Brown, and Crisis Communications In the Age of Social Media

michael brown case 2By Gerard Braud

The events in Ferguson, MO warrant the need for community leaders to activate their crisis communications plan, if they have one. But the power of Black Twitter, amid the protests, presents an amazing crisis communications and public relations case study.

Generally, protesters win the public relations battle against any establishment during a protest. Those on the offense present their case more passionately – sometimes with accuracy and often with a heavy dose of one side of the story. Those in government or in business generally hunker down behind lawyers, rules and restrictions, offering far less information to the media and the community. The lack of facts creates the impression that the establishment is hiding the truth.

Then there is the issue of the media and how they cover the story. Are the media fair to both sides?

MichaelBrowncaseA story by Laura Sydell on NPR’s All Things Considered examines the power of social media in a crisis. The hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown began trending on Twitter among blacks after the media showed a picture of shooting victim Michael Brown, which the black community felt misrepresented him. Using Twitter, the black online community pressured the media to select a new photo. According to Sydell’s report, Twitter is such a prolific communications tool in the black community that a huge segment of the Twitter audience is now known as Black Twitter.

Listen to Sydell’s report and study the Twitter hashtag. Consider how your company or government entity would manage their crisis communications in the future when they are faced with a protest that goes viral.

 

 

 

 

Disturbing Media Trend #3: Exclusive

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Click image to watch video

By Gerard Braud

Who would have ever thought that your media interview would be proclaimed by the television news media as an exclusive, when your interview might only be a run-of-the-mill, routine interview?

Day and night we see the television news media proclaiming in words and news banner graphics that an interview or news story is an exclusive.

During my days as a television reporter, we defined “exclusive” two ways. In it’s purest form, an exclusive is an interview that all the other media wanted to have, but that no other media could get. The interview also revealed groundbreaking information that impacted the audience significantly.

Another example of an exclusive may be an investigative report that revealed information other media outlets were unable to obtain.

These days, television producers and anchors call something “exclusive” simply because the other media NBC EXCLUSIVEoutlets don’t have it, even when the information is insignificant to the audience or fails to reveal any groundbreaking information.

These television stations will call a traditional one-on-one interview an exclusive. For example, if television station XYZ interviews the city’s mayor in a random interview and the other stations have no desire or need to interview the mayor, station XYZ calls it exclusive. By my standards, this is a disturbing news media trend.

If the mayor had told station XYZ he or she was resigning during that run-of-the-mill interview, then that would be big news and that would be an exclusive.

NBC NEWS EXCLUSIVEIf you are in public relations or communications, this trend could impact the company, non-profit organization or government agency you work for. You must be aware that any ordinary interview might get blown out of proportion by your local television station. This means a rather insignificant amount of information might get more attention than it deserves.

On the other hand, you may have an issue that no media really wants to cover, because the event fails to be significantly groundbreaking. Yet, if you offer that report to a reporter with the promise that they can have an exclusive, you may get coverage.

There is a serious danger in offering media an exclusive. Sometimes the other media outlets feel you intentionally snubbed them. This may cause them to ignore your organization in the future. It may also cause them to be slightly biased against your organization and perhaps portray you in a more negative light.

TODAY SHOW EXCLUSIVEExclusives are a growing problem. Proceed with caution.

To watch “7 Disturbing News Media Trends and How You Can Combat Them” On Demand Click Here

Disturbing News Trend #4: Trending Now

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Click image to watch video

By Gerard Braud

“Trending today” or “trending now” are phrases I hate to hear on television news. If news is defined as information that allows us to make smarter, more informed decisions, then a trending video of a cat playing with string is not news.

Each day there is less news on news programs. News is increasingly replaced by entertainment and info-tainment.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m starting to miss the days when the adage applied, “When it bleeds it leads.” This phrase meant the newscast lead, or started, usually with a violent event or natural disaster that resulted in injuries or the loss of life.

Trending, on the other hand, requires little or no news gathering skills. It only requires the regurgitation and re-posting of something from the Internet. In most cases, it is a viral video or a hot topic that the anonymWhats Trending Newsous, faceless, social media world feels compelled to pass judgment upon.

Both the Today Show and Good Morning America have cordoned off sections of their studio specifically to share what is trending on social media. Both are actively trying to engage their viewers with links and hashtags. What is sad about this trend is that people who are active on social media don’t need to turn to television news to know what is trending. At the same time, the networks are sending more viewers away from network broadcasts and into the social media realm. This move may mean increased web traffic and more income from online advertisements. However, in the long run this is pushing more people away from the viewership and revenue of the current and future traditional news broadcast.

Often, what is trending is mindless. Social media users are commenting about a photo of a fashion model who is too skinny or a celebrity who said something that offended a portion of the audience.

The impact this has on you, if you are in public relations or communications, is that your effort to get news coverage for the corporation, non-profit organization or government agency, for which you work, continues to get harder.

Today Show Orange RoomYour legitimate news may not get covered at all because producers have already filled their allotted time in the newscast with fluff.

The fluff is appealing to the media because it is a low cost way to fill a newscast. This low cost fluff is already known to be popular with the public. In a day when advertising revenues are falling and the size of the news staff is getting smaller, trending fluff is a solution to the media’s short-term problems.

What the media fails to recognize is that the trend of trending is really exposing an increasing number of people to places on the internet where information or entertainment can be gathered for free. This leaves the audience with less need for the original media outlet and the advertisers on the media outlet’s website and news broadcast.

From a pro-active public relations standpoint, you will be under increasing pressure to make your public relations events trend. This adds one extra layer to an already complicated process of pitching a story to the media. It also adds one more point upon which you will be judged. Hence, when you fail to get media coverage, you’ll be scrutinized over your pitching efforts and your social media efforts.

Today show orange roomThe reality of what gets news coverage is really based on the point of view of a producer, who has a limited amount of time in a newscast and fills it with the things they think the audience will talk about the most. Producers can be fickle. I fought with them daily in the newsroom when I was a reporter. Often, they were Jeckle and Hyde; I never knew which I was getting on any given day.

But the bottom line is trending things get selected by those producers for inclusion in the newscast, taking precedent over things a true journalist would consider to be real news.

Trending is a trend I could do without. Sadly, it will be with us for a very long time.

To watch “7 Disturbing News Media Trends and How You Can Combat Them” On Demand click here