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PR Cited as Partial Answer to NY Times Credibility Gap…It’s About the Conversation, Stupid

Why is it we need a crisis just to have a simple conversation? Why wait until things get so bad you have to call in a crisis communications team, when a simple conversation might have sufficed? As any Internet-savvy public relations professional will tell you, in a world where individuals can publish criticism for the world to see, failing to acknowledge mounting public criticism only amplifies and aggravates the problem.

In my opinion, the main reason the MSM has lost credibility is because are now challenged to start answering their critics, and in all fairness, this was never something they were prepared for. They are not built to have conversations. They are built to report. So now, as a result of add water and stir content management systems like blogs available to anyone with something to say, they find themselves facing an entirely new challenge with respect to defending why they took the position they did, in every phrase they print.

According to a report issued by The New York Times Company, and covered today in a story in the NY Times, one of the ways reporters at The Times should protect themselves from unfair attacks is through better public relations. Check out these snips…

“‘The defense should be led by journalists in the news room with support and advice from our corporate communications, marketing and legal departments…’

…The report also…recommended that reporters be given television training…

…Orville Schell, dean of the journalism school at the University of California, Berkeley, said The Times had to strike a balance between ‘smart public relations’ and ‘letting your work speak for itself…”

Good public relations is about advocacy, not spin. At a time when consumers can leverage technology to be heard by like minded people everywhere, PR needs needs to get better at public relations, and stop focusing so much on media relations. Public relations has the opportunity to help not just The New York Times, but organizations everywhere enter into productive conversations with their markets.

I also think The Times should be less defensive about recognizing the positive contributions corporate communications can make to the process, and start thinking proactively about how it might transform its personnel hierarchy to recognize this newly created hole and rise to the occassion.

The article ends with…

“I would be loath to see a paper like The Times begin to spin its image too ardently through public relations techniques,” he [Orville Schell] said. “But I do firmly believe that the paper has to defend itself.”

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