Keeping an Eye on Those Headlines

By Christine Todd, Account Coordinator

It can almost go without saying that having a basic understanding of current events, especially if you work in communications, is so important for everyday work and life. I’m talking to you, college students. If you are in college or a recent college graduate, it’s good to start these habits before you enter the professional world.

With so many sources across all mediums, it’s easier now than ever to stay updated on local, national and world news. I’ve outlined some baby steps you can take:

• Subscribe to a daily email newsletter to get the day’s headlines, such as The Skimm. It will make you feel like a news rock star before you walk out the door in the morning.
• Listen to podcasts while exercising or during your commute.
• Watch local broadcast TV while getting ready in the morning.
• Make a national news channel your browser homepage so you’re almost forced to read the updating headlines every time you hop onto your browser.
• Download a news compilation app on your phone. Circa News and Newsify are some of my favorites. These allow you to pick and choose the RSS feeds from your favorite news sources and put them all in one convenient app.

Doing just some of these everyday will make you stand out at networking events or informational interviews. I can just imagine some of these scenarios occurring if you show off your news junkie skills.

For example:

“What’s that you say? You know about that obscure bill passed through the Indiana Senate last week? I’d like to hear your opinion on it over a cup of coffee, and maybe we can see if my company has an opening in our government relations department.”

Or:

“Hey, you seem pretty knowledgeable about what tech products are popular in Southeast Asia right now. Can you send me links to those articles you were talking about? Here’s my business card, and please feel free to contact me for career advice.”

Well, it may not play out as wonderful as these hypothetical situations, but knowing your stuff can help you get a leg up in the recent graduate pool.

If you work in an agency, you’re expected to know a little about everything, and you’re definitely required to be an expert on your local news outlets. It can make the difference in scoring more media coverage for a client if you are able to make your releases and pitches newsworthy. It also helps if you are able to speak intelligently about why an article you read last night would really help with a client’s communications strategy. Back up your rationale with reputable and multiple news sources and you could come across a winning plan.

You can even help avoid terribly timed social media situations like this.

So yes, it can be very easy to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world around you. Beyond fulfilling your civic duty as an educated human, being a news junkie can help you professionally and also personally because let’s face it, it’ll probably help your stats at Wednesday night trivia.

Start reading, listening and watching. Keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself to just one news source.

 

The Truth About Transparency

By Mike Murphy, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs 

We hear a lot about transparency these days. If you are over 50, your mind may jump to those floppy plastic sheets that your high school math teacher used to project equations on the wall.  Those went the way of the fax machine.

Transparency in today’s vernacular is somewhat synonymous with “laying everything on the table.” But transparency is NOT the same as truthfulness.

Before you decide whether to be completely transparent with information, you must first ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is your client a government entity?
  2. Is your client a publicly held company?
  3. Does your client have a legal right to privacy?

If your answer to either Question 1 or 2 is “yes,” then the content and the timing of releasing information is governed by several state and federal laws and regulations, including the Freedom of Information Act and SEC regulations. You should check with an attorney familiar with these laws before releasing or withholding information.

For most clients, you also should answer “yes’’ to Question 3. This gives you a lot more leeway and leads to a fourth question:  What is in your client’s best interests?

Remember, you serve your client — not your buddies in the media, not your friend the local politician, and certainly not your friend who works for your client’s competitor.

The general rules are:

  • Always be truthful. More people go to jail for telling lies than for committing the crime that is at the base of the lie.
  • Be transparent with information that is truthful AND serves your client’s interests, whether that is selling a product, advancing a cause, or protecting a reputation.

Those rules will serve you well, though it is impossible in this short blog to consider all the permutations of circumstances that you could face in representing your client.

Once you decide to share client information, you must decide the best forum in which to share.  Rarely is a news conference the answer. Clients hate them (unless they are politicians) because they might be exposed to unanticipated or unwanted questions. The news media hate them too (they are boring and rarely produce real news). The only thing good to be said about news conferences is that they efficiently tell your client’s story to many reporters in a compressed time frame.

Far better, in most cases, is to choose a reporter who already is knowledgeable about the subject and is known to be fair and ethical.  Brief him/her on the story, and offer your client for an interview.  The resulting story will be the foundational story for the rest of the media.  You will have better control of the message while serving your client’s interests.

So, be Truthful.  But not unnecessarily Transparent.

Understanding your Target: Communications Strategies for Building Grassroots Campaigns

By Mike Murphy, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs 

Our Hoosier political leaders carry an immense burden as they try their best to accurately and responsibly reflect their constituents’ views and priorities on the issues of the day.

No matter what the issue, there will be advocates and opponents. Insightful pols can use a variety of tools to inform their decisions. Polls, town hall meetings, staff research, etc., are all valuable and useful.

The question for citizens interested in communicating effectively with their representatives on the cusp of an important decision often is — how do I reach my Congressman/legislator/councilor with my views or information?