As PR pros know, media exposure can be a double-edged sword. Most of the time the system works: Stories that deserve to be told are told, and people who make outlandish claims only to gain press coverage usually are weeded out and silenced. At least we hope this is so.
Other times, though, PR pros and reporters are complicit in helping augment the reach of self-serving publicity hounds. Despite the nonsensical things they spew, sometimes they gain media coverage. Usually reporters and PR pros know they’re helping these people gain exposure and hate themselves for it. “It’s part of the job,” they rationalize.
An example of this has been occurring in basketball during the last few months, where LaVar Ball, the father of a talented college freshman player, is doing and saying outlandish things, including marketing $500 basketball shoes and claiming he, LeVar, the father, could have whipped Michael Jordan.
Since his son is a highly coveted basketball player, the publicity door is open to the father. The larger question, though, is what can be done about it? Do we merely stop paying attention? As columnist Jason Gay writes, “One thing that LaVar Ball—the 21st Century Sports Parent we deserve—knows is that outrageousness is today’s strongest currency. His ascension is simply the latest reminder that the modern media culture—no matter how much it claims to dislike it—will happily give a platform and power to a mouth that says ridiculous, indefensible things. That’s not a Dad problem. That’s ours.”
One of the other issues that happens when our media culture pays attention to an undeserving loudmouth is that important stories—ones deserving of attention—are crowded out, left on the cutting room floor of publications, TV news broadcasts and online sites. One of those stories reached our desk this week.
During a meeting of employees of Uproar PR and one of its creative partners, Spry, it was mentioned that one in four women will encounter some form domestic violence in their lifetime. Mulling that staggering statistic, “we realized that in both of our companies, we had incidents of members of our teams coming to work with clear signs of distress,” Catriona Harris, CEO of Uproar PR, tells us. “We acted when those people needed help, but what about everyone else?”
Harris and her colleagues had touched a nerve. They asked, “How can we get the message out, make more people aware and help raise money so that people who are affected by domestic violence can get the help they need?” Then they realized this is what they do for a living. “We have two companies here,” Harris says. Spry makes high-end videos and Uproar knows how to spread the word.
As we know, PR pros are good at research, too. Their research resulted in finding a venue in Florida called Harbor House that cares for victims of abuse. Being savvy communicators, the two companies decided to combat domestic violence against women by spreading the word about Harbor House via a video PSA that resides on its own web site. More than that, they figured the week leading up to Mother’s Day would be a great time to do this. The site, where you can view the PSA, has an appropriate name: www.herestoyoumom.com. That’s also the name of the video, which is particularly effective.
The message goes beyond mothers, though, says Josiah Sampson, executive producer at Spry. “Most everyone has had a mother, grandmother, sister or female relative they have cared for deeply. Growing up with six women in my immediate family, this one in four statistic is rather jarring. Engagement and conversation are important and impactful on these types of matters.”
Ah, but what of today’s media culture we mentioned at the top of this post? Uproar and Spry know breaking through the noise will be a tough task. “We are putting our full efforts into maximizing this PSA’s reach, using our knowledge of social media, marketing and PR,” Harris says.
The strategy is to reach out to journalists “whom we have relationships with, in hope of crafting stories on the topic. We are also utilizing social media by encouraging everyone to share, like and comment on this video,” she adds.
It’s an uphill battle for sure, but we like their attitude and the way they think. “While we’re aware that it can be difficult to raise mass awareness,” Harris admits, “we also know that each…view [of the PSA] or donation adds up quickly…by touching on such an important topic, we hope people are organically inspired to share this PSA and that the message is strong enough to emotionally break through online noise.”
We do, too. Happy Mother’s Day.
Follow Seth: @skarenstein