2015 Predictions – The Wild West of Journalism

Having spent the first ten years of my career as a broadcast journalist, I have a great deal of respect for the challenging job facing reporters. Sometimes uncovering the truth is like catching a greased pig. But lately it’s getting hard to respect a profession I once proudly called my own.  The Rolling Stone debacle is just the latest example of a decline in the fundamental standards of journalism. How in the world could a national news outlet agree not to talk to ALL parties about a highly damaging story? The sad part is I see similar actions by other reporters on a regular basis. Today it’s not uncommon for a journalist to write a story about a company and never bother to contact them for comment. The internet has made it easy for newsrooms to simply “borrow” information from another news outlet, or even worse an opinionated blogger, and pass it along as if it’s the gospel with no thought of confirming the facts. And don’t get me started on the craze some networks have with citizen journalist.

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While I could go on and on, the point is the decline of journalistic standards we see today will have a profound impact on corporate America. With the speed by which news travels today, one misleading report can cause serious harm to a company not just locally, but globally!

While we all might wish a return to the good old days, that’s unlikely to happen. As a result, corporate America will need to embrace this change with a few changes of their own. I see five areas that should be addressed:

  1. It starts with a finger on the pulse of the media. Organizations need to be more in tune with what the media is reporting through monitoring services of both traditional and social media. Companies need to have the resources to respond rapidly so they can nip a negative story in the bud before the rumor mill takes over.
  2. I’m amazed by the number of companies I speak with that don’t have trained spokespeople to address serious issues facing the company. CEOs need to know how to deal with the media, especially when the questions will have a little bite.
  3. Companies need to do a better job of telling their own story and more importantly, they need to have the tools to respond in a moment’s notice. We live in a digital world yet too many organizations don’t leverage the tools they have to tell their own story. Brand journalism represents the future and it’s time companies embrace the new reality.
  4. Far too many companies plan to manage a crisis on the fly. They either have no crisis plan or haven’t updated it in years. The first 24 hours of a crisis are crucial and you are doomed if you don’t have a plan of action.
  5. Recognize that every person who walks in your office, whether they are a visitor or an employee, is a potential journalist with a camera. Remember what you say in an email or online never goes away. The old saying loose lips sink ships has never been more applicable than it is today.

The information age is upon us and the time has come to face some harsh realities. Your brand is only as strong as your ability to defend it and today that means many organizations need to up their game when it comes to dealing with a media landscape undergoing dramatic change.

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