July 23, 2014
by Roger Pynn
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Associated Press introduces automated news writing. As if CNN (the Commentator News Network) hadn’t already reduced the business to moronic, now AP – the bastion of hard news – is basically using robot reporters.
You can mark this as the day journalism went to hell in a hand basket. Said AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara, “What I’m trying to get out of is the data processing business. I can’t have journalists spending a ton of time data processing stuff. Instead I need them reporting.”
He can’t be serious. How can a reporter report if he or she hasn’t first processed data?
Journalism is basically broken into two elements: news gathering and news writing. Back before any of us had ever heard the term big data, reporters had been processing data for years … sifting through facts and figures, truths and lies, old stories and new in order to know what they would then write about.
Ferrara has confused writing for reporting.
July 22, 2014
by Roger Pynn
I’ve kept a tiny crystal ball on my desk for 30 years … about the size of a large thimble. And for all those years we’ve told our team, via Curley & Pynn’s Five Steps to Professional Success, to “Anticipate … Don’t Wait to Be Asked.”
So this LinkedIn post by futurist Daniel Burrus caught my eye today with this headline: “Forget Lean and Agile – It’s Time to be Anticipatory.” It is a good read, particularly for anyone who loves research and data. Burrus talks about the difference between certainty and uncertainty, soft and hard trends … and the ability to know what’s next.
That fourth step in our statement of corporate culture is about the responsibility of our team to keep an eye on the horizon, and to look over it to see what could be coming next that might have an impact on our clients and the programs we develop for them.
Whether you’re concerned with the next big thing in your market or disruptive factors that may change your market altogether, a clear windshield is likely more important than a rear view mirror.
While a crystal ball would be even better, Burrus is spot on. Monitoring trend data and knowing what you can count on is an essential skill. As Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie urged us … don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
July 18, 2014
by Kerry Martin
I was reminded of an important lesson for both journalists and communicators yesterday while listening to the story of the New Jersey news reporter who was suspended for giving his personal opinion on the air. While covering a story of a police officer shooting in Jersey City, News 12 reporter Sean Bergin credited the underlying cause of an anti-police mentality to “young black men growing up without fathers.” In response to his suspension (and voluntary resignation), Bergin admitted he knew he “was breaking the rules.”
What he did wrong was not what he said or how he said it, it’s that he was the one who was delivering the message; he was the wrong spokesperson.
The role of news reporters, public relations professionals and communicators is to tell a story—using the voices of subject matter experts, credible eyewitnesses and official spokespersons. With the exception of editorial writers and news pundits, journalists aren’t supposed to inject their own opinion into their coverage.
Bergin explained that because the New Jersey police officers were in the middle of the investigation, they couldn’t comment on the story. The only perspective Bergin aired was the comment from the widow of the man who fatally shot the officer, saying her husband should have killed more officers before they shot and killed him.
My question is why Bergin felt that the only way to share another side to the story was to express it himself. Could he not have interviewed retired police officers, sociologists, spiritual leaders in the community or African-American studies professors to comment on the troubling outcomes of gang violence and statistics that could point to an underlying cause?
This is a solid lesson for anyone in the communications profession. There are many ways to express viewpoints through different spokespersons, but you should be prepared for what may come when you take it upon yourself to be the messenger.
July 2, 2014
by Roger Pynn
I had a delightful lunch yesterday with one of our first employees. After marriage, she and her husband moved to Atlanta where she went on to a great corporate career (even became a client), then went on to raise two great kids and now that they are all but out the door, she’s started her own firm.
Talking about the good old days and about how much the business has changed, she stopped me and said, “No … it really hasn’t changed all that much. It’s just that a lot of people are out there selling the things of public relations instead of the relationships.”
As an independent practitioner, Pat Check’s Latitude 34° Company Communications is built on the promise of “taking your message in the right direction.” We always tell clients that first and foremost public relations is about their message, so it is nice to see one of our “alums” staying true to that philosophy.
But Pat said something else. “I think of you all the time when I’m meeting new clients because I remember when we’d go visit a prospect you always started with a conversation … getting to know them and showing that you’re really interested in them. It is still about that … relationships.”
Flattering, for sure … but Pat’s right. It hasn’t changed. For all the shiny balls of communications technology that roll around the table every day, this is still a business of, by and for relationships … and you can’t build them if you don’t get the message firmly in place from the outset.
July 1, 2014
by Roger Pynn
Those who know me can attest that I have a pretty colorful vocabulary, and while I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that I have a tendency to swear perhaps a bit too often, I have no problem telling you that I have no words to describe how offended I was by an email that I received today with this bit of art embedded:
At the very least this is an exceptional example of not being familiar with your audience, but since this is just an email blast, it goes way beyond that.
If you don’t know your audience, you can’t tell whether they’d be offended by the kind of language we blacked out above because we didn’t want to offend anyone.
I sent this response to Elissa Jane Mastel, who lists herself as chief marketing officer of Chill Media North and uses the unique email address “email@example.com”:
“Elissa Jane … I find your email highly offensive, socially unacceptable and downright stupid.”
Actually, it goes way beyond stupid … and, clearly, they didn’t care who they offended.