Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Knowing What They Know 

We had an interesting meeting yesterday with a CEO of a company that has a media problem. Reporters have concluded some of the company's product sets aren't as useful as others. The CEO contends with good reason that reporters haven't looked at the issue correctly, but he is also smart enough to know they won't. He's given up trying to change their minds.

The CEO is a student of human nature. He understands people make short-hand conclusions about matters then, stop listening. They use the same heuristics we all do in life, so we can wend through complexity without being bogged down by innumerable considerations and decisions. The problem is that unexamined lives really do get locked in over time, which is why we talk about old fogeys hopelessly out of touch with the world. In this case, old fogeys are relatively young reporters. The CEO is a victim of censorship by conventional wisdom.

We told the CEO the only thing we could. To change minds, we would have to present hard data and compelling evidence that invite reporters to think again. And, we would have to go to different reporters. This is frequently the case in PR. One perserves relationships with a beat reporter but builds relationships with other journalists. It's not easy to do, especially in an era of shrinking editorial coverage overall. But, it is necessary if a company is to get its point of view considered openly.

We say reporters provide independent third-party verification of ideas, products and services, and we believe that. But we also know some reporters are unable to grasp issues or not disposed to do so. It's a fact of life in mainstream media: It's a fact of life in new media as well.


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