Dogma Be Damned: Set Real Journalists Free

Image for post
Image for post

For many, it would seem unusual, if not highly suspect, for a long-time public relations executive to opine on the state of journalism and to offer remedies for its preservation. After all, aren’t most PR pros charged with positioning their clients more favorably in news and feature stories? (There are strategies to achieve this.)

I thus find myself in a quandary, torn between offering an interview/story idea to a news outlet pre-determined to be receptive to the message, while avoiding those that would not be. …


Image for post
Image for post
Jon Ossof and Rev. Raphael Warnock

The short answer is probably not. That is until the Democratic leadership recognizes a significant shortcoming in how their brand is perceived and the urgent need to mount a communications plan to fix it.

Sure, “one America” resonated loudly with an electorate that was tired of four years of division and demonization by Trump, his GOP enablers, and the pernicious and pervasive right-wing media apparatus. Then why didn’t the highly anticipated Blue Wave materialize? It’s simple: the Democrats turned over the reins of managing their brand identity to the Republicans.

In Florida, Cubans and other Latino voters shuttered at the idea of “socialism” in America should the Democrats prevail. The Miami Herald concurred: “Republicans’ drumbeat of socialism helped win voters in Miami.”


Image for post
Image for post

I belong to several private groups for communications professionals on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Slack. In following the conversation strings, one can’t help but notice a palpable frustration by many practitioners that PR as a marketing communications discipline is DOA during the coronavirus crisis. This is mostly true, except for the brand-focused story angles that are supportive, not exploitive, of the tragic circumstances in which we now find ourselves.

Sure, many niche media beat reporters continue to report breaking, non-COVID related news, most noticeably in the entertainment arena, e.g., Quibi’s ramp up or Roku’s stock price, but most others require some tie to the reality on the ground. …


Image for post
Image for post

This is the opening line for far too many PR story “pitch” letters emailed to journalists. To call it a cliche would be to state the obvious. In fact, it’s such a hollow greeting — often sent to reporters with whom the publicist has no prior relationship — it becomes a non-starter, if not a catalyst for the reporter to expose the sender in a caustic tweet. At no time is this more true than the present day.

The New York Times’s Brooks Barnes posted a piece late yesterday in which he echoed what many of his beleaguered WFH colleagues in the fourth estate were no doubt…


Image for post
Image for post

More than a few media watchers have audaciously proclaimed that this week’s viral performance by the “President” spells doom for his prospects of re-election come November. I disagree.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the age of Trump, scandals big and small simply dissipate in a matter of days, if not hours. Some never rise to the level of national awareness, while others that normally should have legs, don’t. The ephemeral nature of today’s news diet is in part a result of the fragmented media landscape where mind-boggling revelations reported by once-trusted national news organizations fail to make an indelible impression. …


Image for post
Image for post
The Internet Research Agency, Russia’s Troll Farm

Between Trump’s and the GOP’s disregard for the truth, and the unwillingness of the major social platforms — Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter — to remove provably false or purposely doctored information from reaching its users, America is poised for a whole lot of hurt in 2020.

Now comes the news, thanks to some nifty reporting by Buzzfeed, of how some public relations firms are offering services that leverage the flaws in how the world gets its news and information. In its piece “Disinformation for Hire: How a New Breed of PR Firms is Selling Lies Online,” the authors write:

“If disinformation in 2016 was characterized by Macedonian spammers pushing pro-Trump fake news and Russian trolls running rampant on platforms, 2020 is shaping up to be the year communications pros for hire provide sophisticated online propaganda operations to anyone willing to pay. Around the globe, politicians, parties, governments, and other clients hire what is known in the industry as “black PR” firms to spread lies and manipulate online…


Image for post
Image for post

At this year’s Collision Conference in Toronto, I had a chance to reconnect with Scott Painter who I met some 15 years ago around Quincy Jones’ “We Are the Future” all-star concert in Rome. Scott retained our services to help publicize the event.

About

Peter Himler

Founder, Flatiron Communications; President, PCNY; Editor, Medium; Blessed w/ 3 exceptional sons & a most fabulous wife; Music & tech; Maker of the sauce. #NYC

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store