Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Five years ago the most devastating earthquake in Haiti's history killed 200,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more homeless. The media covered the quake and its aftermath intensively then moved on. Today there are still more than 85,000 homeless in the country and little is being done for them. The media's attention is elsewhere, such as in France where terrorism is an issue. What would it take to get Haiti back into the headlines? Would there need to be a coup or other political upheaval? Would homeless Haitians need to riot? Reporters and editors are always chasing the next big story. There is less attention to circling back and seeing what has happened after a major event. Here is where publicists and PR practitioners can prove their worth by digging up stories that capture media attention and keeping an issue before the press. Haitians are too poor to afford a massive media campaign as are most Third World countries. They depend on outside help that is focused more on necessities -- food, clothing and shelter -- and less on telling the story of a people's plight, or the aid agencies don't have the skills to build a narrative that captures the media's attention. Haiti is just one example of the media's attention moving on. There are many more. No wonder that Walter Lippman compared the press to a searchlight that moves randomly in the darkness. Where it shines, it illuminates intensely but then it moves on and darkness falls again. It is up to PR practitioners and publicists to get the searchlight to return.