Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Real Threats. Real Plans – Crisis Communications in a 2.0 World

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Real Threats. Real Plans. This was the theme of DRIE Toronto’s first quarterly meeting for 2008 held yesterday at the Royal Bank Auditorium on Front Street in Toronto.

For those of you unfamiliar with who or what DRIE is, here’s the spiel direct from their site: The Disaster Recovery Information Exchange is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Business Continuity Management, Disaster Recovery Planning, Crisis Management, Emergency Planning, and other related disciplines as integral components of an effective business strategy.

I’ve presented to this group twice now – late in 2007 and yesterday – both times on the impact of social media and digital technology on crisis communications. Without question, there’s a hunger for this kind of knowledge particularly given the dynamically changing communications landscape within which we, as practitioners, must now exist.

Why is this important? Because a number of fundamental changes are afoot – driven by digital technology, including:

  • The speed by which issues and threats can escalate into full-blown reputation crises
  • The surge in the level of “noise” around an event or issue - increasing the risk of misinformation and speculation to re-shape the dialogue and side-track an organization’s response
  • The extent to which social media is transforming how traditional media report on a crisis
  • The changing role of employees as brand guardians, and the need to help guide their behaviour in the online space
  • The impact of the online world’s “permanent record”, and the challenge facing organizations to rebuild their reputation in an environment where Google, according to Wired, has become less of a search engine and more a reputation management engine.
  • Most importantly, the importance of an organization’s own web footprint as a vehicle for timely, transparent, and responsible communications.

Effective crisis response in a 2.0 world requires understanding of each of these factors – and appropriate strategies to address them. Most importantly, it requires buy-in from senior leadership across all key business functions – not only communications. It requires a focus on speed and visibility, a commitment to responsible and ethical disclosure, and a recognition of the importance of being viewed as a voice of credibility and authority.

It does not diminish the importance of traditional principles that have governed crisis communications in the past – in fact, it reinforces many of them, allowing organizations to put a more human face to their communications, creating a direct channel to stakeholders, and enabling more timely and transparent dialogue.

Already, H&K is working with a number of clients to help advance their thinking and preparedness in this space. Most importantly, these are collaborations that are not simply one-way information exchanges, but two-way conversations that continue to inform our own thinking around crisis preparedness and response in a 2.0 world (in addition to what we read about Virginia Tech, the California Wildfires, JetBlue, Dell or other more commonly-discussed case studies).

Because the challenge is rarely identifying the threats. It’s ensuring that your plan of action is appropriate to the crisis, and takes into account this rapidly evolving landscape.

Epitaph for the now-defunct Halifax Daily News… "I’m on the Internet"

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Perhaps one line says it all amid the reactions (or less than) to the recent shutdown of the Halifax Daily News.

Though you’ll have to make it to the end for the punch line. (Hat tip to Martin)

If you want to validate the PR profession, don’t do this…

posted by Brendan Hodgson

In the category of things that might effectively neuter the future viability of PR, I offer you this direct from the Bulldog Reporter’s 2008 Bulldog Awards brochure:

“Who better to assess the work of PR professionals than the most important audience for your work? Our 20 journalist judges are tough but enthusiastic supporters of media relations excellence.”

Without question, traditional media relations remains a critical component of the PR toolkit, and will remain so for the forseeable future. The reach and credibility of the mainstream media (for the most part) is still vital to influencing perception and behaviour. But what cannot be ignored, however, is that this perceived supremacy is being challenged by the ability of an organization to reach and engage its “real” audiences directly (meaning customers, employees, communities, governments, etc.), to mobilize advocates and galvanize support and endorsement beyond the media itself. Furthermore, and in specific instances, effective PR is about not engaging with the mainstream media at all. So why define PR success in such narrow terms?

Quite simply, if we as an industry continue to believe in and support the notion that PR is synonymous with media relations (and that the journalist is the “most important” audience) at the expense of everything else we could and should be doing, then the battle for future legitimacy will be lost without a shot being fired.

Truth-o-meter shows traditional media can be creative, relevant

posted by Brendan Hodgson

In the eyes of many, Google’s latest deal with the wire services simply hammered another nail into the traditional media’s coffin. And, for sure, this does nothing to halt the long, slow descent into night of the mainstream media’s 20th-century business models… and yet I can’t help but think (and hope) that these guys are gonna figure it out. Like it or not, we need professional journalism…and we need to find a way to ensure somebody, somewhere can pay good journalists to do the job they do. But that’s not my point (or not entirely).

Why will traditional media survive? Well, for a lot of reasons. But I think part of it is that they will ultimately get “it” (and, in many cases, already are). They will see that they can do things that others cannot, and do them well, and do them creatively… in a way that will attract the eyeballs needed to ensure they keep doing it. Newspapers, for example will see that they cannot try to keep up with “breaking news”. But rather, what they can do is provide a good dose of the in-depth analysis that is still required to make sense of this mad-cap world.

Case in point:, a project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly.

Although a variation on a common theme, what I like is the blend of entertaining visuals (gotta love the pants on fire) with powerful, relevant content that has less to do with being first and more to do with delving beneath the spin and uncovering (what I believe is) important information that most Americans (and others) would not know, nor have time to uncover for themselves. This is, in my view, a glimpse into the future of 21st-century journalism.

The nine rules of journalism

posted by Brendan Hodgson

No need to adjust your RSS… The silence emanating from Collective Conversations in recent days was simply the result of a mild heart attack suffered at some point on Sunday. The subsequent and inevitable lost memory… namely the last week’s worth… has now been replaced (unfortunately) sans comments and backtracks… apologies to all and any.

But we’re back… bigger, stronger, faster than ever… with gizmos and whizbangs that makes the space shuttle seem as innovative as a Polaroid camera (or so I’m led to believe)… and so with that, I thought I’d initiate this glorious resurrection with the following: The “secret” rules of journalism, according to Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press.

Flacks take note… as it is our responsibility to understand this ever-changing, and increasingly incomprehensible medium. My favourites (although they’re all pretty damn appropos)…

Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted; then, after the afflicted become comfortable, afflict them again. This should provide an endless supply of news stories.

Be balanced. No matter what anybody says, find somebody to say the opposite. If a scientist claims to have a cure for cancer, find somebody who says cancer does not exist. If a man says “My name is Fred,” make sure you find somebody who says “No, your name is Diane.” Etc.

When working at the New York Post, make sure your story includes all six W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why and With What Kind of Lubricant.

Traditional media’s Little Bighorn?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

From Canadian Journalist comes some interesting tidbits on the current health, and state of mind, of the traditional media:

According to Dick Parsons, Time Warner’s chief executive, during a panel session at the 56th annual National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference: “The Googles of the world, they are the Custer of the modern world. We are the Sioux nation.” (click here for the full article)

Rowr! Feisty indeed.

And perhaps there’s good reason to feel a tad punchy – not all news appears bad:

At the World Association of Newspaper’s recent Capital Markets Day in London, for example, a glowing report was released indicating that global newspaper circulation had risen by 2 percent while the number of new paid-for daily titles had risen to 11,000 for the first time ever.

Other highlights: 

  • Free daily newspaper circulation more than doubled over five years, to 40.8 million copies a day.
  • More than 1.4 billion people now read a newspaper daily.
  • Print is the biggest advertising medium in the world, with a 42 percent share. Newspapers alone are the second largest, with 29.4 percent of global advertising spend. “Hidden in those figures is the fact that newspapers — as the second largest advertising medium to TV — actually represent more than the combined advertising value of radio, cinema, magazines and the internet,” Mr O’Reilly said.
  • Advertising revenues rose 4 percent in 12 months and 15.6 percent over the past five years.
  • In the last 24 months, more new, innovative newspaper products have been launched than over the prior 30 years.

More interesting in my mind, however, are some of the assumptions that emerge from the data:

  • Of the established media, newspapers are far better at managing the economic cycle than their competitors.
  • Newspapers represent the only true mass media market channel – being essentially “fragmentation-proof”.
  • Newspapers are competing far more effectively against the onslaught of digital media than broadcast.
  • Broadband penetration is not adversely impacting underlying volumes of advertising.

Compelling stuff (even if one refrains from considering such issues as geography, internet penetration, and other factors that may skew this data) and, regardless of the self-congratulatory tone, a potent indicator that media is still a powerful force in the PR space.

12 minutes with Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor of the Economist – in his own words

posted by Brendan Hodgson

As I posted earlier, it’s not often that one has the opportunity to pose a few questions to the executive editor of the Economist. So when the chance presents itself, you jump. I did. And the ”best of” excerpts from my 12 minutes with Daniel Franklin is the result: (Note:  grammatical errors should be attributed to my rushed transcription of the interview tape)

On the success of the print publication in the digital age:

“New media is important to any company, but what we’ve seen, or come to understand in recent times, is that there is still plenty of life for us in print. It seems that we are in a bit of a fortunate place in the print spectrum where people still read magazines,  and… that’s not even a function of generational age – young people read magazines as well.  Our circulation is rising healthily around the world, indicating that there is still an appetite for the sort of read where you sit back and make time to read something that matters to you. As opposed to the sort of consumption that happen on the internet which can be very important because it is a different kind of consumption.  It tends to be typically a quicker experience; snacking around the web, if you like.  We seem to be benefiting from the fact that people will still make time to read the Economist.”  

On the positioning and direction of the

“For us, new media and what we are doing on the web is tremendously important but it’s not, for the moment, a substitute to the experience of the print newspaper, as we call it, which is actually where the particular mix of things that we do at the Economist is probably done best… So that means we have an opportunity online to do something over and above that, and that’s what we’re building on.  I’ve been looking after the dot com for about 7 months now and we’ve been trying to expand the content there so that it becomes not just a manifestation of the print paper online, but also a very lively daily experience.”

On Project Redstripe:

“Project Red Stripe is, I think, a very, very interesting experiment for the Economist.  And while it’s not the only way that we are relying on getting new ideas – The Economist dot com has a whole program of new developments that I am implementing and starting to look at – Project Red Stripe is… a creative way of saying: well, we may not, in our normal processes, be capturing everything that we really should, and it would be interesting to look at other ways of innovation and to capture the creative talent that may not have their outlet in other ways. So it was an open competition to say “who would like to be involved in this from around the Economist group?”… and we’ll see what comes of that. But I think that the near fact of having such a project is quite galvanizing for an organization.  It sends a strong message that we’re interested in ideas and creative momentum wherever it can come together and a lot of people are very interested to step out from 6 months from their regular jobs and work on an exciting, different project. ”

On his vision of the Economist 5 years from now: 

“Well, the curious thing about the Economist is that it both stays the same and changes… and in many ways it’s the same creature it was when it was set up 160 years ago.  The guiding principle of the Economist is very much still the one that continue to be the one in our DNA.  At the same time, it’s surprising how much it evolves while remaining true to itself, so if you pick up an Economist of 5 years ago it already feels different. Small changes that have happened that collectively make a difference. I don’t know whether we’d yet introduced colour even 5 years ago. Most recently, we introduced the international section, and when I joined there were only two sections apart from a US and UK one covering international affairs; now there are five.  So these things evolve over time and you’re sort of surprised to see when you look back that we’ve changed. But I expect the same thing to happen over next 5 years; that there will be a period of changes which you barely notice at the time but which amount up to, if you like, an upgrade experience of the magazine. And I also imagine that part of that will involve referring increasingly to what we are doing online so that you, at least, have within the magazine more reference to the widened universe that we’re creating at the Economist dot com.”

On building community with Economist readers:

“We now have a very successful blog on economics, on American policy, and we just launched one on Europe… and I’m sure that that will grow. We’ve also done something interesting with our letters. In the physical magazine we only have space to publish half a dozen or so letters each week, and they are obviously highly selected and edited. But we get several hundred letters or emails every week from our readers.  So we created the ‘Inbox’ where we publish most of what people send us. Obviously we weed out the defamatory or offensive letters, but I think that in those ways and others laid out in the future, we are involving our readers much more in a sort of community. And I think for the Economist, that is an enormous strength in that our readers around the world are an extraordinary reservoir of knowledge and insight and we would be crazy to lose this technology that can help both tap into that… and also potentially help that world of readers engage with one another as well.”

On Social Media:

“Social media is very important, in the sense that it’s the conversation that is happening out there… So I think that, first of all, it’s important to listen to what’s being said about you. For example, there are number of forums on Facebook… communities that have spontaneously arisen of people that are ‘friends of the Economist’, if you like, which is a fascinating phenomenon… But you have to be a little bit careful about how you interact with these groups – that you don’t barge into other people’s private clubs or conversations. It’s a fascinating, rather early days phenomenon which I think will be important for any organization but which you have to treat with respect for fear of misbehaviour. You can create your own blogs and try and get your own message out so that people will be aware exactly of what you are doing – but you have to do something that is real and genuine.”

Thank you, Mr. Franklin.

A Conversation with the Executive Editor of the Economist

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Jet lag be damned… For who would miss an opportunity to pose a few questions to Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor of the Economist?

Not me.

This coming Friday (March 23), H&K Canada has the privilege of hosting Mr. Franklin who will be providing a select group of clients and guests with his views on various global issues and their impacts on key Canadian economic sectors. Mr. Franklin is in Ottawa to  participate in the inaugural Executive Business Roundtable with the Government of Canada, hosted by the Economist Conferences division.

Where do I fit in, you ask? Well, after much arm-twisting and cajoling of those in H&K who are organizing the event, I was fortunate enough to win a few minutes with Mr. Franklin to pick his brain on the changing communications and media landscape, all of which I intend to blog shortly afterwards.

But I thought I’d put out feelers to find out what kind of questions you might like me to ask. I have a few ideas, but figured you might have some suggestions on topics that you’d like covered. So send them through, either via the comments or by email, and I’ll try to get them asked (and I’ll apologize in advance if I don’t)…

141 words about Daniel Franklin

Daniel Franklin has been Executive Editor of The Economist since June 2006, when he also became Editor-in-Chief of

Since 2003 he has been Editor of The Economist’s annual publication, “The World in…”; The World in 2008 will be published in November 2007.

Mr. Franklin joined The Economist in 1983 to write about Soviet and East European affairs. As the newspaper’s Europe Editor from 1986 to 1992 he covered the great European upheavals, from the collapse of communism to the signing of the Maastricht treaty.

After a stint as Britain Editor he moved to the United States as Washington Bureau Chief, covering the first Clinton term. In 1997 he moved back to London as Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit, where he helped to transform a traditional print publisher into an online business providing continuously updated country analysis and forecasts.


Radio-Canada guides viewers through the Election Predictor

posted by Brendan Hodgson

I find this interesting, given that we had considered doing something similar. But it’s kind of cool to have someone do it for us.

Here’s Philippe Schnobb of Radio-Canada, the French language arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) providing a detailed video description (in French) of the functionality of the Hill & Knowlton Ducharme Perron (HKDP) prediction tool.


StarPM & RushHour R.I.P… or so say the Norwegians

posted by Brendan Hodgson

In Norway, apparently, PDF versions of newspapers are going over like lead balloons… which makes me wonder how Canada’s two major afternoon dailies are doing.

Granted, the Norwegians typically have to buy theirs whereas ours – quirky headlines and all – are free (other than the cost of paper and ink – particuarly if you want to read it in full technicolour – and we know that ain’t cheap) and less bulky.

But, personally, I don’t see these experiments hanging around for much longer, free or no. And me a crossword and Sudoku buff!? The simple reason being that I can’t picture myself – for reasons both selfish (read lazy) and environmental (read lazy) - printing off an update of news that I’d likely get were I to visit the website that I’d have to visit anyway if I wanted to print off the PDF.

But that’s just me.