Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2012 – Pause and Take a Breath

In a 365 day, 24/7 news cycle, it’s hard to take a breath these days. Add to this frenzy the fast news cycles of online media and the opinion-driven style of today’s blogs and twitter feeds, it’s sometimes difficult to understand when enough is enough. PR teams feel the pressure to be a part of every story, on every news outlet and have teams ready to respond to any negative tweet or post. While I am not suggesting that you don’t have to be vigilant to protect your company’s
brand and value, I am suggesting that we are sometimes victims of our own need
to be relevant.

This is why I’m recommending that when things happen, or fail to happen, it’s always best to pause, take a breath and evaluate what, if any, response or action is needed. There
are absolutely times when a response is warranted but many times, the crisis identified
is not a true crisis. It might be inconvenient, unfortunate or even embarrassing for a company or individual but it does not warrant the revving up of the corporate spin cycle. It is best to plan for the best and worst case scenarios, but a good PR company will have a standard plan in place that just needs to be followed with the pertinent details that are available.

There was a recent story in NC about the sitting Governor deciding not to run again. She didn’t give any reasons, just told reporters that she wasn’t going to seek re-election. The media had a field day examining why she wasn’t going to run. When it seemed like the story was winding down, one of the news outlets decided to interview local PR people to get their reaction to her decision to not explain her reasons. Every single one of them said she was in the wrong and that she should have explained her reasons to the media, that the public had a right to know and they would have counseled her to be more forthcoming. When I read those stories, my thought was “of course that’s what they would say, it’s their job to create news cycles.” And that’s just what they did, created an unnecessary news cycle about something they weren’t personally involved in on a subject that they had no insight into. The PR people were creating the news cycle for
their own benefit, not because they were adding any new information to the story.

News cycles like this spin up every day. It’s inevitable when the “always on” news media and a culture that believes we have a right to know everything about everyone that we find mildly interesting. We don’t and it’s important for PR people, and the companies they represent, to understand and appreciate this fact.

While I’m not advocating that companies adopt a “no comment” policy when something negative occurs, I am suggesting that they pause and think before they react and engage. The good thing about the current news cycle is that if you blink, the media is off chasing the next story, about the next issue or trend or dastardly act by someone else.