I love New York. It is perpetually in your face, but the city is at least honest about it.
I was there once at Halloween and saw Napoleon walking down the street en route to a party. Nobody paid attention. I was there once and saw Dennis Rodman wearing a wedding dress, en route via horse-drawn carriage to a book signing of his autobiography. People did pay attention that time. Unlike the French emperor, who was hurried but minding his own business, the basketball star was in your face.
People, particularly tourists, also pay attention to the Naked Cowboy. This is a muscular young fellow whose base of operations is Times Square. He wears a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, a guitar and briefs. And that’s it. You want your picture taken with his putative icon? Give him a little money and he’s glad to oblige. It isn’t what he says as much as what he does—he’s in your face too.
Rupert Murdoch and the phone-hacking scandal are a lot like the Naked Cowboy. It isn’t what they say as much as what they do, but it appears that they’re in your face, too.
If you haven’t followed this saga, some journalists employed by a Murdoch newspaper in London, News of the World, allegedly used hijacked phone conversations of royals and celebrities to create sensational news coverage. But it was when it was discovered that the phone of a murdered schoolgirl had been hacked that the scandal mushroomed and began to involve Murdoch and his son, James.
Why would journalists apparently be willing to breach every journalistic code of ethics —and if so at the same time also break the law as well?
Generally, media have responded in one of two ways to the market forces that have whipsawed them in recent years, largely driven by the free availability online of about anything the media used to sell.
Some media have decided to provide even more useful information than in the past—for example, for insight that is compelling enough that people are willing to pay for that analysis to help make decisions.
But other media have decided to provide even more controversial coverage than in the past, stories that are salacious but can be hard to look away from, like the scene of an accident.
Guess which one News of the World —owned by News International, a subsidiary of the Murdoch parent company News Corporation—allegedly chose. If so, it worked for awhile. News of the World was the most profitable Murdoch paper in the United Kingdom, until it was shuttered.
What does this mean for you? Well let me be a little in your face about this:
Generating news coverage now is “do-it-yourself.” Much of what companies used to communicate about themselves —that is, real news—now lands between the extremes of deep analysis and salacious copy, and that means the media may take little or no notice of your company announcements.
Here are two suggestions to counter that:
• Go Deep: When you get ready to announce a new product, for example, don’t just talk about the product. Talk about the trends behind your development of that product. What did your customers tell you that led you to develop the product? How widespread is the challenge facing your customers? It is up to you to explain to the media why your announcement is news. That is, you must demonstrate the news.
• Deliver the news directly to your audiences. Post your news on your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages—and on the social networks you’ve created for individual audiences, from customers to investors to employees. You can include a link to the release. Create your own video story about how your new product solves a problem. Send it directly to your top customers, and post it on your Web site. Chances are that the media then will use your news, too.
There are many examples of media that are evolving or emerging as the best and brightest around the world. And they are more vibrant and vital than ever. Look at Bloomberg and Reuters. Look at 21st Century Business Herald (China) and The National (UAE). Look at Huffington Post and Patch.com.
But as the media change, so, too, has the definition of news. It is now your responsibility to define the news. And that means it is also the opportunity you never had before to define your own story. PRN
[Editor’s Note: For more articles on media relations, visit PR News’ Subscriber Resource Center.]
Gary Wells is senior managing director at PR agency Dix & Eaton. He can be reached at email@example.com.