BAM. Yes. Sitting and waiting for that overwhelming swoon moment to hit you out of nowhere is akin to that greeting card joke showing a women skeleton, all dressed up, sitting at a bus stop, waiting for the perfect man.
One day a year, the world takes a deep-dive look at the power of the press. But why not make the case for checking in on the health of the fourth estate on a daily basis?
Media trends, transparency, tools and access to intelligence are the bread and butter of the trade, and journalists face an every-day battle to do the work they were born to do: cover the key features and breaking news of the world and industry, and apply needed context. Attention to this critical mission should be on the minds, and the reading radar, of all of us, every day, right along with the journalists struggling to deliver credibility, vital news and relevance to our inboxes, devices and doorsteps.
Powerful Statistics, Sobering Reality
As citizens and residents of the United States, we take the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of the press as a given. However, there are some sobering statistics we should look at.
The "didn't see that coming" statistic? This country does not lead the way in freedom of press rights; we don't even rank in the top three. Or even the top twenty:
According to Reporters without Borders, the United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries for press freedom.
Across several political administrations, the fourth estate has dealt with suppression of information, attempts to reveal sources, intimidation and other factors. And, in a sobering call to reality, journalists deal with much more than simple repression. As of today, over 13 journalists in 2017 alone have been killed in the pursuit of news.
Yes, journalists are the gatekeepers of information for our society, and they can pay a steep price for their commitment.
What can we do, not just on World Press Day, but everyday, to help them in their mission, while guaranteeing our continued access to free and unfettered press? Here are some simple steps:
- Stay informed: Not just from your favorite news sources, but a cross-section of media. Understanding what's being shared, whether it's "true news," and being on top of media issues and trends is half the battle. Rights and freedoms, whether press or otherwise, are often lost simply because people aren't paying attention.
- Support legitimate news sources: Yes, dive in behind the paywall, and pay up. Quality news coverage costs money to produce. We as a society have gotten used to the incredibly rich stream of information and content available to us. Let's be grateful for this access, and put our money where are reading eyes are. Some top media sites charge less than the cost of a cup of coffee for digital access, so sign up!
- Question content: There's a wealth of good guidance out in the digital world, providing guidance on whether news and reporting is truly independent and legitimate, or a paid-content attempt to influence. The International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions has created this helpful infographic to provide context: How to Spot Fake News
There's Hope in the Next Generation
There's a bright spot in all of this, however; and it's called the next generation.
The Washington Post sponsored a student essay competition, which caught my eye. Designed for students in grades four - eight, it's an extraordinary "from the mouth of babes" look at what it means to have freedom of the press, here and abroad.
This year's winner is Jahnavi Dave, an eighth-grader, and her take-away was impressive:
Free press and technology go hand in hand. - Jahnavi, Dave, 8th Grader
Individuals and entities may use technology to chip away at the transparency and credibility of the press; but savvy media consumers, and tech-conversant next-generation readers also understand that technology is a powerful tool for protecting and accessing a free and independent press.
So, make every day World Press Day, and use both your rational judgment and the tools of technology to read, share and elevate the best efforts of the journalists committed to reporting on the news, trends and issues that so impact our lives.
By Pam Abrahamsson, founder, PRA Public Relations
firstname.lastname@example.org | @Pam_A
A couple months ago I agreed to mentor a young member of my financial services industry organization. After all, it's good to give back, right? Little did I realize how much I would gain.
Putting the Community in Communications
While many of our previous posts have dealt with the “what” or “how” of earned media/public relations, here’s a look at something critical to the communications profession: the “why.”
And for a look at the “why” of a communications program, who better to spotlight than a 20 year+ professional who exemplifies the power of purpose in the industry?
KJ McAllister, principal of KJM Public Relations, and a past executive for Fortune 500’s Hewlett-Packard, exemplifies “why” it is vital to support community as part of your industry calling. Her commitment to using her public relations skills for advocacy and social impact is a case study for harnessing the power of communications to create positive outcomes.
From serving on the board of key industry professional organizations, from International Association of Business Communicators, to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and more, she’s considered it a matter of professional priority and civic good to volunteer time and skill to support the profession. She’s also been a key communicator, helping mentor innovative creative conferences and other events.
Under her leadership as president of IABC, she’s expanded the education and interaction performance of the organization’s annual conference. As a board member of PRSA, she’s helped create a robust conference and speakers roster that has educated, engaged and energized countless area professionals.
Why is this important? Because the communications profession is a powerful one, much more so than most individuals realize. The power to persuade, inform, set conversational agendas and drive media coverage impacts communities, generates emotion and drives action. It is a serious responsibility to be a communicator, and professionals need to be mindful of the impact they create through their profession.
Leaders like KJ understand this, and make meaningful, thoughtful and strategic communications outreach and civic engagement an essential foundation to their work. Her industry efforts are keenly focused on educating, encouraging and setting an example of civic-minded and ethical practice of the profession.
Of course, there is another aspect to positive use of communications; and KJ is equally active in this sphere: community.
Whether she’s volunteering for a local charter school, supporting the good efforts of local children’s causes or lending her support (and an ear) to Portland’s vibrant startup community, she puts her figurative money where her mouth is. Arranging interviews, creating outreach strategies and ensuring positive coverage of key causes is an ongoing passion of KJ’s.
When we asked KJ about some tips for becoming community-focused communicators, she had a few thoughts to share. We are happy to pass along.
KJ’s Three Key Tips for Community-Focused Communications
1. Listen & Look: It’s essential to truly understand the enterprise or organization and its goals before you weigh in with strategies. It’s great to be well-meaning, but to be well-meaning and effective, take time to audit an organization, and create recommendations that will benefit the mission.
2. Balance: The call-to-action for community engagement is a continuous one. To ensure you are able to “help for the long haul,” learn the fine art of saying “no” when your plate is full. Creating a balance between personal life, work and community engagement is tough, but it is necessary to ensure you can continue to be of service on a long-term basis.
3. Question: It’s so easy to get swept up in the good intentions and momentum of a great cause. However, if you don’t ask tough questions; about media readiness, performance, financial viability and a number of things which an organization needs to have in place to succeed, then you are not helping them.
Creating media attention is great if an organization is well-situated to flourish and grow in the spotlight, but a poorly-planned initiative can be disastrous. The answers may not be what you had hoped, but so much better to fact check internally, then have a top journalist point out the failings of a well-meaning cause.
Questions or comments? Interested in hearing how KJ can help drive the communications strategy within your community?