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The Trust Crisis

Taking Aim -

by Roger Pynn

When I first read this article about research conducted by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, I wanted someone to slap me awake.  “Could this really require research?” I asked.

The study concludes that Americans who find “news” online, it is not the organization that creates the news, but who shares it via social media that determines how much they trust the information.  In other words, if your beloved Aunt Jane (the one the family calls “Saint Jane”) shares an article on Facebook, you are far more likely to believe it because she shared it than whether it came from a highly recognized news organization like, for instance, the Associated Press.

As I read the story a second time, my attitude changed to “isn’t it a darned shame that news outlets lost sight of the basics of human trust?”

I’m like everyone else … concerned over the unraveling of American news media (I’ll not worry about media in Russia).  It goes way beyond the shrinking number of classically trained journalists, the shuttering of some fine papers and magazines, and certainly, the striking lack of editing or adherence to basic principles that used to restrict opinion creep.  I’m worried about the apparent inability of most people to recognize the difference between news and commentary – and that includes a lot of people who claim to be journalists.

This single comment left me reeling:

“All of this suggests that a news organization’s credibility both as a brand and for individual stories is significantly affected by what kinds of people are sharing it on social media sites such as Facebook. The sharers act as unofficial ambassadors for the brand, and the sharers’ credibility can influence readers’ opinions about the reporting source.”

Of course!  For Pete’s sake, are you going to accept something your most trusted friend tells you?  Even if it is published by some outlet you’ve never heard of?  You’ve probably never heard of the American Press Institute before, but if you’re reading our blog it is most likely because we have a relationship and you’re therefore likely to believe I wouldn’t share something with you if it was not reliable information.

All this boils down to the colossal failure of media organizations to earn trust.  It isn’t just because the President of the United States is cutting them up like paper dolls.  He’s simply capitalizing on their failure to create a relationship.  Facebook gets you to like someone.  Do you ever wonder whether your newspaper cares if you like them?


Filed under: Miscellany, Roger Pynn Tagged: American Press Institute, Associated Press, Citizen Journalism, Citizen Journalist, Journalism, Journalists, Orlando Public Relations

Conflict Abounds.

Taking Aim -

by Roger Pynn

If there’s one thing that’s certain, conflict is everywhere these days.  But it doesn’t stop at the borders of the District of Columbia.

My friend Elise Mitchell, APR, CEO of Mitchell Communications Group and of Dentsu Aegis Public Relations Network has a fascinating blog focused on leadership, and in her most recent post she addresses a leader’s role in conflict resolution.

Every day we are seeing people through the lens of the media, many running from conflict.  To the contrary, she suggests, it may be better to approach conflict the way a firefighter takes on flames … running into the danger.  She says, First, let’s clear up a common misconception: Having conflict on your team doesn’t mean you’re a bad leader. Conflict is just part of a leader’s journey, and you have to accept that, not run from it.”

Conflict is as predictable as the sunrise.  In our business, navigating conflict is essential.  God put us here to create relationships, and if we run from conflict we’re likely to be short-lived for the profession.

In her new book Leading Through the Turn (which metaphorically takes insight from what she’s learned as a motorcycle enthusiast), Elise suggests leaders ask themselves these questions:  1) Where do you want to go? 2) How do you plan to get there? and, 3) Are you enjoying the journey.  It was question #3 that made me wish I had met Elise a long time ago.


Filed under: Industry Musings, Roger Pynn Tagged: conflict resolution, Dentsu Aegis Public Relations Network, Elise Mitchell, Leading Through the Turn, Mitchell Communications, Orlando Public Relations

How to Be the Best Intern Ever

Taking Aim -

by Ashley Tinstman

As someone who was once a nervous, timid intern, I’ll admit—internships can be somewhat terrifying.  Your professors constantly stress the importance of getting multiple internships, but the process of seeking and obtaining those internships can sometimes feel overwhelming.

If you’ve ever felt this way, take a deep breath and relax.  Internships are a process of trial and error—they’re designed to help you learn what you like and don’t like, all while getting real-world experience.  And as employers, we’re here to help you grow, and that’s something we love to do.

Here at Curley & Pynn, interns are a valuable part of our team who get to work on all kinds of projects—drafting newsletters, doing research, building media lists and more.  Now, you might be thinking, “That sounds awesome, but what exactly do you look for in an intern?”  Luckily for you, I am here to answer that very question.  Here are five things that make a great C&P intern:

  • Write.  And then write some more.

But seriously … writing is a vital skill in our industry.  As an intern at C&P (and in your future jobs), you will be writing on a consistent basis. Whether it’s a news release, feature story or a media pitch, you must have strong writing skills and know how to tailor your writing to very specific audiences.  If writing isn’t exactly your strong suit, practice!  It’ll go a long way in helping you stand out during your interview.

  • Be a sponge.

Once you’ve landed the internship, be eager to learn all you can.  Observe what others do, take notes, ask to sit in on meetings and seek out advice. We are here to be a resource for you, so don’t be shy.  You can learn a great deal by observing and asking questions.

  • Be a problem solver.

In the PR industry, you will undoubtedly face challenges that require you to think critically.  You may have to do difficult research for a client or write about a topic with which you’re unfamiliar.  In those cases, be resourceful and attempt to work through the problem you’re facing.  But if you get stuck after trying, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  • View mistakes as a learning opportunity.

Everyone makes mistakes.  It’s an unavoidable reality.  You’ll make mistakes as an intern, and you’ll make mistakes as a seasoned industry pro.  But guess what … that’s OK.  Mistakes may not be pleasant in the moment, but they can be a valuable learning opportunity.  When your internship supervisor offers constructive criticism, view it as a positive.  We want to help you grow and succeed.

  • Take initiative.

One of the most valuable things you can do as an intern is take initiative. If there’s a project you want to get involved with, tell us.  If there’s something you want to learn more about, speak up.  If you don’t have enough work to do, ask for more.  We do our best to get our interns involved in a variety of projects, but we always like when our interns take the initiative to ask first.

If you’re interested in interning at an awesome agency with awesome people, you can find more information here.


Filed under: Ashley Tintsman, Industry Musings Tagged: Curley & Pynn Internship Program, Interns, Internship programs, Orlando Public Relations, public relations internships, Writing, writing for PR

Will Automation Put the Fact in Fact-Check?

Taking Aim -

by Roger Pynn

Automated fact-checking may be the wave of the future, according to this Poynter Institute story, and that could be a good thing if it begins to add objectivity to what is currently opinion journalism.

Instead of checking facts and declaring them correct or false, many “fact checkers” today deal in degrees of accuracy, judging stories according to a scale of truthfulness.  Human judgment is required to determine whether a story is true, mostly true or half true, and that judgment requires a subjective review that inevitably is influenced by journalists’ feelings about a topic.  So instead of getting a verdict on whether a statement is true or false, we get an opinion that factors in bias, assumptions and context.

From the story about the goal of automation: “The state of technology and the maturity of fact-checking organizations today make it possible to take the first steps toward that goal.”

In a nascent industry that issues rulings like “Pants on Fire” and “Four Pinocchios,” the term “maturity” rates a Half True at best.

But of course, that’s just my opinion.


Filed under: Miscellany, Roger Pynn Tagged: fact-checking, opinion journalism, Orlando Public Relations, Poynter Institute, Reporters expressing opinion

From Papercuts to Smartphones and Back Again

Taking Aim -

by Heather Keroes

I’m an addict.  It’s a Saturday morning and I am glancing down at my iPhone while attending a child’s birthday party.  Although I try not to respond to emails over the weekend and after close-of-business, I like to keep an eye on things.  The world doesn’t stop because it’s a weekend and as a PR professional, it’s my job to always be listening.  And so, over the cheers of children hitting a piñata, I multitask, switching between my phone and another forkful of cake.

I am not alone.  Most of us check our emails on smartphones and tablets and this mobility has changed the way we work.  When I began my public relations journey more than 13 years ago, you couldn’t check email on-the-go (unless you were among the first lucky folks to own a BlackBerry). And even with access to my desktop computer, I stuffed envelopes, mailed press kits, faxed information and (shocker) regularly pitched media by phone.

These days, I have significantly fewer papercuts and I’m able to manage client requests and issues anywhere at any time.  But this doesn’t mean that the “old ways” are obsolete.  In fact, they can still be the most powerful ways to communicate (I’m a fan of phone calls, especially).  It’s important for all of us – those who have grown up with email and tablets, as well as those of us who remember the pre-Facebook days – to not lose sight of the tried-and-true communication methods that foster conversation and engagement.

Ask anyone at Curley & Pynn, and they will tell you that once we have determined our publics and our message, we take aim and fire through mediums that have the greatest impact with our target.  And while that may often mean email or other digital means, that doesn’t mean we don’t get papercuts from time to time.


Filed under: Evergreen, Heather Keroes Tagged: BlackBerry, Effective Communication, iPhone, Orlando Public Relations, pre-social media days, smartphones and tablets, the age of electronics

Bring Me Thinkers.

Taking Aim -

by Roger Pynn

An interesting article in Tactics, a publication of the Public Relations Society of America, makes a case for writing as the most sought-after skill in public relations.  With apologies to the author Hanna Porterfield, let me say that writing is just a bar for entry.  What I want is people with critical thinking skills … who hopefully are writers.

Of course, you have to be able to put your thoughts “on paper” in this business.  But I can teach even a fair writer to do better work in that area.  What I can’t do, I’ve found, is teach people to logically think through a problem or challenge instinctively.

Why?  I think it stems from what and how they are taught in school.  Few public relations programs I’ve seen have more than one – if even that – course addressing how to think through the challenges you’ll face as a practitioner.

Sure, it is true, that in your early days in our world you will be doing sometimes repetitive research to find out what has already been published on a topic, or to create a media list or identify thought leaders.  And you’ll be asked to write a lot less than the Great American Novel.  But if you are truly cut out for public relations, you’ll approach each of those tasks by asking one big question.

“Why?” is the question that should drive everything.  When you understand why you are doing something, why information is important, why the three paragraph release or blog post fits into an overall communication program, you’ll be on your way to bigger assignments.

We’re trying to hire an entry-level communications specialist now.  To us, entry level is someone with a couple of years of experience under their belt.  They should be looking for that second job … one that gives them the chance to write bigger things, be part of creating strategies and take their place on the front line with clients and community.

The biggest challenge for us right now is finding that person who can think … as well as write.


Filed under: Industry Musings, Roger Pynn Tagged: critical thinking skills, Hanna Porterfield, Orlando Public Relations, PRSA, PRSA Tactics, Public Relations Society of America, Tactics publication, writing for PR

Everything Else

Taking Aim -

by Dan Ward

I read a tweet today in which George Orwell was quoted: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

We’ve written often on these pages about the changing industry of public relations and how we often tell client stories in ways that no longer involve journalists.

Orwell today could just as easily say that public relations is telling stories that deserve to be told, but which journalists do not see fit to print.


Filed under: Dan Ward, Evergreen Tagged: George Orwell, Journalism and PR, Orlando Public Relations, PR Industry

Timing is Everything

Taking Aim -

by Kacie Escobar

Chili’s just lifted its permanent ban on Pam Beesly Halpert … and fans of NBC’s “The Office” are eating it up.

In a memorable episode, Pam (played by Jenna Fischer) is banned from the restaurant for causing a disturbance during a company party.  Asking fans whether she should go inside, the actress recently tweeted a selfie in front of a Chili’s, triggering nearly 500,000 combined retweets, likes and comments.

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Chili’s was quick to reply and “officially” lift the ban on Fischer’s character.

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Complete with a quote from the company president, the announcement extended the life of the social media event across two days.  It even prompted some of Fischer’s co-stars to join the fun, enabling the brand to reach thousands of additional followers:

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Because of its timely response, Chili’s is now on a growing list of brands that have successfully capitalized on popular culture to boost social media engagement.  These brands understand that the timing of your communication is just as important as the message.


Filed under: Business Buzz, Kacie Escobar Tagged: Chili's, Jenna Fischer, NBC, Orlando Public Relations, Targeted Messages, The Office, Timing of announcements, Twitter

Hello?

Taking Aim -

by Vianka McConville

If you’re looking for whistleblowers in the era of email hacking, why not list a phone number?

The New York Times has a system to receive confidential news tips which includes messaging apps, encrypted emails and snail mail, but omits a phone number.  Unless the line was bugged, I would think a phone call would be the safest way to share confidential information.

As someone who has tried to call reporters at the Times, I assume direct phone numbers are nowhere to be found due to the volume of calls the publication receives on a daily basis.  The phone system is a fortress.  But that can be a blessing and a curse; reporters may avoid the world’s worst story ideas, but also could miss out on the next big tip.

Is it an attempt to thwart a deluge of unrelated calls or have people become too comfortable behind screens and encrypted messages to actually talk to folks?


Filed under: Miscellany, Vianka McConville Tagged: calling newspapers, confidential information, email hacking, news tips, Orlando Public Relations, Technology, the age of electronics, The New York Times

The Antidote to Hateful Speech is More Speech

Taking Aim -

by Dan Ward

When I first read about the violent protests at UC Berkeley over a planned speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, I was prepared to respond from the viewpoint of the middle-aged curmudgeon I’ve become.

I started a post about free speech coming full circle, with the birthplace of “the Free Speech Movement” now serving as a location for protests against speech.  Why is it, I was about to write, that young people today (“those darn kids”) seem less interested in protecting free speech than being protected from it?

But then my hope was restored by a Berkeley freshman, Shivam Patel, who was quoted at the end of this CNN story about the protest.

“It’s a sad irony in the fact that the Free Speech Movement was founded here and tonight, someone’s free speech got shut down.  It might have been hateful speech, but it’s still his right to speak.

Thank you, Shivam, for recognizing that the First Amendment protects even speech that makes us uncomfortable.


Filed under: Dan Ward, Miscellany Tagged: CNN, first amendment, Free Speech Movement, Freedom of Speech, Milo Yiannopoulos, Orlando Public Relations, Shivam Patel, UC Berkeley