Archives for posts with tag: media

shattered

What can we learn about leadership, and management, from an insiders account of the 2016 Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton?

A surprising amount is the answer in the case of Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes’ excellent “Shattered.”

Subtitled:”Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed campaign,” Shattered is a surprisingly partisan look at one of the most dramatic election campaigns in memory. As is mentioned in the book’s introduction, if you are a Hillary Clinton supporter this book can make for painful reading and a reopening of recently scabbed over wounds. It is also noted that if you are not a Hillary Clinton supporter it may reenforce your views, but may also engender some sympathy.

The story spans Clinton’s early decision-making process of whether to get into the 2016 presidential campaign all the way to the days and weeks after the election of Donald Trump. It is really the story of an organization; and the failures of leadership, management, data, and strategy.

What makes the story so compelling is that the people at the heart of the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton, and Clinton herself, are painfully aware of the mistakes of the 2008 campaign for the democratic nomination against Barack Obama. The 2008 campaign was characterized by internal power struggles, leaks, and was generally drama filled, and the candidate and her team are hell-bent on not making those same mistakes again. While for the most part they succeed, there are numerous new mistakes which once again create a dysfunctional organization.

Prizing loyalty over everything else, Clinton cannot help but create an organization of fiefdoms which allows them to get top down decisions implemented; however, is then tone-deaf to bottom up feedback. It also creates a system where staff need to get multiple people need to sign off on decisions. This in turn, creates the need for others to get involved to help fix the organizational problems, but unintentionally make things worse. As is noted mid way through the book, leaking was a symptom of the dysfunction of the 2008 campaign rather than the cause. This is a failure of leadership by getting management structure wrong.

As the book progresses, through the democratic primaries it becomes obvious that while some lessons of 2008 had been learned by the 2016 campaign, for example focusing on delegates rather than votes, it blinds them to the fact that some of their underlying assumptions are wrong. They do not realize that they are losing the votes of working class whites who had formed their base in 2008 and for whom Bill Clinton had been a champion.

Other than the organizational issues, there is also the role of big data. Every campaign decision is based on analytics and is constantly looking for the least costly route of victory. However, analytics are being used as a strategy, and a decider, rather than as a tool. The underlying assumption is that is cheaper to persuade supporters to go to the polls, and register to vote, rather than change the minds of undecided voters. This does not take account that there are voters who are actively voting against Hillary Clinton, and they were not doing anything to change the minds of those voters.

The campaign was misreading the electorate, the analytics were wrong, but it was the organization that allowed it to happen. Having said that, as the book correctly notes, no reputable pollster was predicting a Donald Trump win, so the Hillary team is hardly alone.

This is an interesting book because these are people obviously working at the top of their game, repeating the issues made famous by the World War I book “The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman. That book explores the idea that the generals of World War I were not fighting the current war but the previous one and not realizing that the world had changed and thereby dramatically adding to the misery of The Great War.

Like Weapons of Math Destruction which I reviewed here, Shattered is also a warning of the potential limits of big data and predictive models. They are a tool, and should just be one of many. There are lots to learn from Shattered; it is an excellent tool as well.

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Talk about feeling conflicted…

For my American non-car fetish readers, Jeremy Clarkson is larger than life public figure and journalist from the UK who is known world-wide for the BBC motoring television show Top Gear.

When I say larger than life, a serious aspect of Jeremy Clarkson’s public persona is his often outrageous and politically incorrect statements in private and on Television. Some might say that everything has come to a head with the presenter multiple times in the past; however, for most the head was reached today when Clarkson was fired for punching a producer during an argument over food following a days filming.

The personal conflict comes from my love of Top Gear and Clarkson as a broadcaster. As a person, I am sure he is not someone I would like to spend much time with (I’m not a fan of his writing or politics.) However, the deeper conflict is how the media in the UK has essentially manufactured and over blown any number of remarks into career damaging scandals. The culture of bullying by majority over remarks or misunderstood events, by the major media and the social media hordes has to stop. We risk complete disengagement by future generations due to the risks of getting involved – it is just not worth it.

Finally, the human resource and management side of me applauds the BBC for having the courage to fire a key employee for completely unacceptable behavior in any workplace. Sorry Jeremy – but to needed to be fired for that.

The scandal is not the punch, the scandal is not incidents over number plates, or ill chosen remarks. The scandal is that television personalities and programing will be a little more bland and a little less interesting because we can’t just dismiss a personality as an idiot and not watch them if we disapprove.

Everyone wants good PR (public relations) or good press to put it simply. But how to get it?

The answer is actually really rather simple, and follows a lot of the same rules as social media and content marking: give your audience what it wants!

Your audience in this case is that odd mixture of reporter, editor, and reader. For the most part, in this blog post, I’m discussing newspapers and magazines. But the same rules generally apply to radio, television and web-based news sites.

Your Target

I often hear the complaint from businesses that it is impossible to get the major media interested in small business. It is not impossible, just hard. It is also making sure that you are targeting the right reporters, and right media outlets in the first place. Small local papers are much more likely to be interested in things that will affect the local community. Magazines, and in some cases television, are much more likely to be interested in “human interest” stories. Business journals, including industry specific magazines, are probably most interested in ideas or services that other business can use or learn from.

If you are a small business in a distinct community – as opposed to the big city – focus on your local newspaper or area paper. That might be a free weekly paper, or a daily traditional newspaper. If you are a major business for your community, it is quite possible that your reach will be greater and you can aim higher.

The Press Release

A press release is exactly what sounds like – a release of information to the press. They tend to be short, written in the third person (as if a reporter had written them) and should include quotes from key people involved as well and any and all information that might be considered pertinent to the reader. Remember this is about what a reporter, or editor, will think their readers will be interested in – not what you think is interesting. Long scientific diatribes filled with difficult to spell words are probably not going to work for the local free paper. A press release needs to be newsworthy, or it needs to comment on something that is newsworthy. If you can provide some background to a major story that is already being covered, you have an excellent excuse for a press release!

It is not the goal of a press release to have it reprinted in full – although that would be nice – but rather to give a reporter a jumping off point for their own article or to give additional information for something that they are already working on.

These days emailed press releases are the way to go – preferably with pictures. But don’t send gigantic photos through email. Attach medium sized images and link to high resolution ones.

The Pitch

Journalists are always looking for story ideas. If you have a good one, even if it is a little self serving, you can always call, email, or even write in miniature a “pitch” for how you imagine the story working. I’ve found that pitches work best when you can talk with the writer concerned and then email over some quotes for them to use. Pitches also work best if you can target a particular reporter. Read / watch / listen to your target media outlets and find out which reporters like writing about subjects that align with your interests. Perhaps there is a business reporter who writes about interesting business models. Perhaps another reporter likes writing about pets and animals – if you are a veterinarian that is probably someone you want to get acquainted with.

Information When They Need It

Over the years, the single biggest thing that has allowed me to get great press is the simple act of returning phone calls and responding when I’m asked. A reporter calls up on a busy day and wants to interview someone about the dangers pets face during the holiday season – that reporters request is now my number one priority. I might give that interview myself, email some quotes over or drag a veterinarian out of what they are doing for five minutes, but I will get that reporter what they are asking for. The simple truth is that reporters work to deadlines and simply don’t have the time to mess around and wait for a couple of days for you to get back to them. Most newspaper articles are written that day for the following days paper or maybe the following day of you are lucky. If you respond, the chances are they will call back the next time they need something because they know you’ll work with them and not let them down.

I’ve actually had letters to the editor, in a local paper, complaining that my hospital was always in the paper and what was the connection between the two businesses. I was in the paper, because I would issue press releases when I had news, and I was always respond when asked. Reporters know that the exposure from a newspaper article is important, so they are not going to beg for your input.

Bad Press

If you talk to the press there is a chance of bad publicity. And if you don’t talk to the press there is a chance of bad publicity. There is some merit in the idea that by making yourself more visible, you become more of a target and it is easier for reporters to inquire about something that you would just as rather they forget. However, any reporter worth their salt is going to chase a story down that involves issues or problems, because that is what sells papers and other media.

I’ve found that, on the whole, local media are pretty good about sorting out the normal disputes that occur with all businesses from time-to-time with the real stories that might have “legs.” Having good relations with your local media will not insulate you from bad press, and reporters will bristle at even if inference that it might, but decent relationships will make it easier to get your point across.

Never, under any circumstances, use the words “no-comment.” It sounds awful, and just makes reporters much more interested, because if you are saying no comment that means you don’t want to talk about something that is probably very interesting. Simple, straight forward, and above all short answers to questions are your best defense when being asked about something you’d rather they didn’t. If you genuinely don’t know, say; “I don’t know at the moment, but I’ll be more than happy to find that out for you.” or “Let me put you in touch with someone who can answer that better than I can.” Of course, make sure that you get back to them, because if you don’t now you’ve just made them mad.

And I hope it goes without saying that nothing is ever off the record, even when it is.

Crisis

Crisis management is really beyond the scope of this blog post, but I wanted to briefly touch on it as it really an extension of bad press. When a crisis, that involves the press, happens it is important to get out in front of it – just like with any bad press. No waffling – either in terms of your response or your statements. Don’t hide – it is very easy to feel like the world is collapsing around you, but the media are going to report something and it should be that you are dealing with the situation – not that you are holed up and not speaking. It is far better to give to much away too soon, to try and defuse a crisis, than to give away too little and have to increase it later after the press have had a field day with your reputation.

Toyota’s handling of their recall is often help up as a prime example of doing too little at first. In the end, Toyota were able to recover but only by doing what they should have done in the first place and untold damage to their brand in the process.

The media will always find you should problems occur in your business that they deem to be newsworthy. Building bridges to the media, however, will allow you to open a dialog for both good and bad news. The media can definitely be your friend, and for the most part, they are not looking to be your enemy – so why not create those relationships to help build your business?

Have had good or bad experiences with the press? Have you had crises that you have been able to handle well? Let me know in the comments section I’d love to hear from you!  

Next Week: Please don’t do this…

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