We read an article in The New York Times about a poll. The second paragraph read, “A majority, 57 percent, said that …”
The third paragraph included, “nearly 6 in 10 Americans said they disapproved of …”
The next sentence explained, “However, three-quarters said they approved of the …”
The article began by describing the poll results using three different methods. But we believe businesses should stay consistent and stick with one way in communicating statistics to the media. During media training, we watch clients want to share powerful statistics to help hammer home a key message. But statistics also can confuse an audience and lose significance. We understand someone may want to avoid repeatedly using the word “percentage.” But comparing, for example, 50% to 75% instead of comparing 50% to three-quarters simply seems more effective. Why force your audience to do any extra math? Keep it simple.
A client asked us to translate a lengthy training video from English into Spanish. Someone transcribed the video and we recorded the translation.
The editing process can be tedious. Especially for an employee training video, you want to ensure the second language matches the video’s images, graphics and in some cases even a speaker’s hand gestures. In this particular case, the company recognized the training video was equally important to employees who spoke English and those who spoke Spanish.
This consideration should go beyond training videos. Many companies and organizations already recognize they have built-in audiences who speak more than one language. Other companies are not fully considering this and may be missing an important target audience.
Video should not be considered simply as a bonus or extra tool in the marketing arsenal. Video is a crucial and visual way of communicating. If an organization has a budget, it should not dismiss the possibility of presenting its well-produced, lively, educational and entertaining videos to audiences of more than one language.
10:42am: A morning producer loves a story idea we pitch. Due to a slew of business, our client can not drive to the TV studio for a morning live appearance in two days. I ask the producer if she can send a live truck to the client’s business or schedule him another day. The producer says let’s plan on sending a live truck. She will double check her available crews the following day.
2:13pm: A reporter from the same station emails, saying she is about to head into her afternoon meeting. She asks if there’s a chance our client would be available that day for the same story. I respond the morning producer wants our client live in two days.
2:27pm: The reporter says her news director believes the story will be old in two days. The news director would love to air the story that day during the evening newscasts.
2:37pm: After the morning producer doesn’t answer her phone, I text her. I explain I told a reporter at her station that we scheduled the story for two days later. But the reporter says the news director believes the story will be old in two days. I ask the producer, “What do you want me to do?” I didn’t receive a response.
3:23pm: I confirm our client is available for the media that day. After not hearing back from the morning producer, I contact the reporter, saying the client is available and asking her to ensure everything is cool with the producer. I explain I’ve been unable to reach the producer by phone or text.
3:28pm: The reporter writes, “I think we’re good!” and plans to head toward our client’s office. She says she will try to get in touch with the morning producer ASAP.
3:42pm: I text the morning producer again, explaing the reporter is heading to our client’s office. I explain I asked the reporter to contact her. I explain I told the reporter I don’t want to upset the producer. I don’t receive a response.
5:23pm: The reporter says she did not hear back from the producer, but our client was a wonderful interview. The reporter believes the live morning appearance in two days should still hold because the newscasts include totally different demographics.
3:16am the next day: The morning producer texts me. She got my texts the night before. She cancels the morning live appearance. She requests in the furture, I don’t pitch stories to more than one person at the station. She requests if one show turns down the pitch, I should then try another show afterward.
9:06am: I text the morning produer I understand. I explain I will pitch her first at the station and wait to hear back. I also explain reporters and produers sometimes don’t respond to our pitches for a day or two or don’t respond at all. I ask how long I should wait for a response until I pitch someone else. I explain if I wait too long to pitch the story to someone else, a timely story such as this one might quickly be considered old news. I also point out reporters call us to put them in touch with clients and other experts we know. But after reaching those clients or experts and confirming their availability, reporters sometimes have already found someone else to interview. Reporters do not always feel they can wait until we get back to them before also searching elsewhere for interviews. The morning producer did not respond.
A reporter called, asking if she could interview Loren and me that same day about a topic. We said yes. I rearranged my schedule. Loren rearranged her schedule. Others provided us assistance in making available a third party location appropriate for the interview. After providing the interview, I persuaded another person to also talk to the reporter.
More than a week later, I asked the editor/producer if he knew when the story would air. He said he did not. Later that day, I had a conversation with the other person the reporter interviewed for the story. The other person said she was under the impression the media outlet decided not to move forward with the story. Her understanding was the outlet had decided a conflict of interest presented itself in this situation.
I contacted the same editor/producer again and asked if this information was true. He confirmed his boss killed the story after deciding a conflict of interest might exist. I asked him when he had planned to tell me about this decision. He said “eventually” and was hoping to take me to lunch. He apologized and took blame for the turn of events.
Debates about conflict of interest are typically not black and white. I do not want to spark that conversation about this particular situation. The more important topic is analyzing how the media outlet handled this case.
I often warn clients who rearrange their schedules for media interviews that breaking news can cancel or postpone their appearances. In this case, breaking news was not a factor. Management should have engaged in a deeper discussion beforehand about whether a conflict of interest existed. New facts about the story did not present themselves after the interview. This is just an example of people not properly communicating beforehand. Finalizing that decision after interviewing us implies a lack of respect for our time. Someone also should have informed us of the decision in a more timely fashion. Not doing so implies the media, often depicted as tough, weren’t tough enough to deliver the truth. Unfortunately, I have seen very similar circumstances unfold many times over the years. I remember once setting up a story between a TV station and someone to be interviewed. The TV station never showed up to the interview and never called to say why.
I believe most people in the media would acknowledge the irony of how poorly some of their peers communicate among each other. But I have also witnessed a culture of media entitlement. You sometimes get the impression you should feel blessed if the media call for an interview while understanding the media dictate the terms. This is what I infer in some cases, not all.
The media, no different than any other industry, have its members which promote dysfunction. Getting news coverage can have great rewards. But with those rewards come risks. You risk making much effort to accommodate someone for no reason. And you risk someone in the media mishandling that situation. This does not mean avoid collaborating with the media. This means build strong relationships with journalists you can trust, journalists who will respect your time and see you as a person, not simply another story to fill a space or time slot. Looking back, we should’ve known better.