Why Media Coverage is a Cursed Blessing

Yesterday the Boston Sunday Globe published a front page feature called “The Loss Generation.” The article focused on thirtysomethings coping with the financial crisis, how much money and equity they have lost in the last several months, and how they were less optimistic about the future than other demographic groups. C.C. Chapman, a social media consultant and blogger, was one of the subjects of the article.

The pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword, especially when its sticking out of your back.

The pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword, especially when it's sticking out of your back.

This was C.C.’s reaction to the article after it ran (you can read his text in full here):

“What bothers me is while the article got all the facts right, it feels to me as if it is an overly negative article. Just look at the sub-headline which in my mind is completely false. Yes, me and my roommates (and others our age) have all been through some rough times and are going through them right now along with everyone else, but all of us were very optimistic and up beat when we did the interviews. All four of us in the article are actually very hopeful.”

As you can see, C.C. felt it was necessary to explain himself on his blog — because he felt misrepresented. In other words, C.C. thought the Globe reporter got his story wrong. Sadly, C.C. isn’t alone.

Most executives have the same reaction when they read about themselves or their companies in magazines and newspapers. I’ve seen it from both sides of the aisle: as a newspaper reporter and as a PR consultant. The majority of corporate executives have a degree of dissatisfaction with media coverage.

The complaints are generally the same:

  • “They got it wrong.”
  • “They missed the most important point.”
  • “They got the details about the technology/product wrong.”
  • “The story was slanted.”
  • “They spelled our CTO’s name wrong.”
  • “I spent two-hours with the reporter and all I got was one lousy quote?

And the sad thing is that most executives expect it. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told: they’re going to write it the way the want no matter what I say. I’ve been training C-Level executives on the art of media relations for many years and guess what? The executives are right. Oh, there are skills and tricks you can use to enhance your story, but at the end of the day, the reporter will, indeed, write their story the way they want.

There is little doubt that publicity from a well-crafted news articles can work wonders for a company in enhancing reputation, building awareness, and showcasing its products and services. But when you hand your story off to a reporter – you loss control of it. Your story is now being filtered by the reporter. Then the story he/she writes gets filtered again: by an editor that you’ve never even met.

If PR people are honest then they’ll admit that a media placement has always been hit or miss. And it always causes lots of stress. Because if there is a mistake in the copy or even if the tone is wrong – the PR team generally gets blamed for it. So the time leading up to a big media hit is one of breath holding and finger crossing hoping that the reporter gets most of the story right.

Unfortunately, there’s almost always disappointment. C.C. is just the latest example of that

You would think that with the Russian Roulette that is media relations that more PR people would embrace social media. Because social media brings control back to companies. You get to be in control of your story, your content. Yet somehow many PR people and agencies still don’t understand the power or the benefits of social media.

Social media allows for direct interaction with customers, prospects, partners, investors, analysts, stockholders and employees. It’s no longer necessary to rely on the media to tell your story to the audiences you care about. You can do it through blogging, through YouTube vidoes, through Twitter feeds, through Facebook applications, and by using tools like RSS and email subscriptions.

Look at the what C.C. was able to achieve. Hours after the Globe story hit, he’s on his blog setting the record straight. He’s taking back control.

That’s the beauty of social media: your story unfiltered

Now why wouldn’t you want to be taking advantage of that?

2 Responses to “Why Media Coverage is a Cursed Blessing”

  1. A very good post indeed.

    I’ve been talking to the press for years so I’m well versed in the fact that you never know which way an article is going to go.

    After me and my roomates sat down with the reporter for a few hours together I told them that I wondered which way the article was going to go because we gave her so much information to work with. I prepped them for what might happen.

    It was a good article, but I just wanted to publicly state how I felt about the economy and where we are going.

    You are right though that more people need to realize that Social Media can help them more then hurt them to get their story out there.

  2. Thanks C.C.:
    You probably already know these, but when I’m media training executives a couple of tricks I like to pass on to them:

    – Avoid rambling conversation-style interviews with reporters. Have an agenda and a topic and stick to it. Reporters can only write about what you say, so if you stick to a plan with 2-3 compelling messages you have a better chance of controlling the content of the article.

    – Try not to do “group” interviews. One-on-one allows you to focus and keeps the interviews on track. When you’re in a group interview, group dynamics often kick in, and you end up saying more than you’d like and getting off track.

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