Monthly Archives: November 2007

Study Shows Americans Distrust Campaign Coverage

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A new study reveals some interesting, yet not surprising, results regarding American’s perceptions of media coverage of politics.

Editor and Publisher highlights the outcome of the survey conducted by Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership National Leadership Index. Harvard interviewed a little more than 1,200 adults nationwide in September. 

The highlights:

  • When asked if election coverage was politically biased, 40% believed it was too liberal, 21% too conservative, and 30% found it neutral. Nine percent weren’t sure.
  • 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.
  • 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.
  • 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.
  • 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidate’s specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.
  • 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.

A few thoughts from my perspective:

These are all good examples of what we could call “say one thing and do another” among American voters. Yes, there is tremendous voter apathy, caused by the most part by negative campaigning and “gotcha” journalism. But yet, those tactics work. Negative campaigning effectively surpresses voter turnout time and time again. If it didn’t, candidates wouldn’t spend billions of dollars each cycle on them. “Gotcha” journalism improves ratings and sells more papers.

Often, we answer survey questions through the lens of idealism. In a perfect world – we want things to look like this. And then we realize the world is far from perfect…and we act as we usually do.

I share this because, as communicators, we need to realize that the mainstream media continues to loose it’s effectiveness. We need to continuously look for new ways to get our message out and expand our mix.

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What is this all about?

The simple answer: telling your story.

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Now, let’s go a little deeper.

Personally, I have a passion for nonprofits. Cause based organizations have made and continue to make our society better. And, one of the most frustrating realities for me as a professional communicator is seeing these great organizations remain in the dark. Especially when journalists, bloggers and social media junkies yearn to bring them into the light.

I often give presentations with local journalists. I think it really helps to get the reporter’s perspective…after all, in order to be successful in media relations, you need to think like a reporter.

In each and every workshop that a reporter has been a part of, that reporter has said “send us your releases, call us, we want to tell your story.”

More often than not, they aren’t going to find you. You need to go and tell them your story.

And, what wonderful stories you have to tell! You are, more often than not, in the business of helping people. In some way, your work and the work of your colleagues impacts lives. These are stories that are just waiting to be told. 

And, to be blunt, you’re not doing your job unless you are telling them. 

My hope is that you will find here a community of storytellers…a group of people who are getting the word out about the impact their organization is having on the world. This isn’t a lecture hall – where you gather around to hear me or someone else speak. This is an opportunity to learn from each other. Me from you, you from me, and so on…

Come here to ask questions. Share your successes and failures. Meet friends along the way. Build a community with me.

Welcome to the Storytellers Network…building a community of nonprofit communicators.

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Filed under Open Thread

Red Cross CEO Out Due to Sex Scandal

The president and CEO of the American Red Cross, Mark W. Everson, resigned from his post today, just six months after taking the job, according to the Nonprofit Times. Recently, it was brought to the attention of the ARC’s board that Everson was having an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate.

 

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The Times also reports that the ARC Board of Governors has appointed Mary S. Elcano, general counsel, as interim president and CEO.

The board of governors, convened in an emergency conference call, asked for and today received the resignation of Mark W. Everson. It was effective immediately. He was not in the building late today, according to Suzy DeFrancis, ARC’s chief public affairs officer.

A senior executive at the ARC brought the relationship to the attention of the board 10 days ago, said DeFrancis. “We believe the board acted very promptly,” she said.

The female subordinate will remain with the organization, said DeFrancis. The board has asked three members of Everson’s team whom he brought from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to stay with the organization and they have agreed, she said.

Everson, the former IRS commissioner, was the ARC’s eighth CEO or interim CEO in 12 years. The organization hasn’t been immune to controversy and scandal over the years, just like every nonprofit that exists today. I thought the ARC communications shop handled this one well, at least out of the gate:

“The Red Cross is more than one person,” said DeFrancis. “It’s 750 chapters and thousands of volunteers,” she said.

“Although this is difficult and disappointing news for the Red Cross community, the organization remains strong and the life-saving mission and work of the American Red Cross will go forward,” said Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, in a statement.

Act swiftly, both internally and externally. Don’t try to hide the facts from the media. Lay it all out on the table. Textbook crisis communications strategy so far…Although, this is somewhat troubling:

Attempts to reach McElveen-Hunter for additional comment were not successful Tuesday afternoon. A woman answering the telephone at Greensboro, N.C.-based Pace Communications, where McElveen-Hunter is CEO, said she was out of the country and not in the office.

The Chairman of the Board, who issued a statement earlier in the day is “out of the country?” Perhaps the receptionist was being a little aggressive in keeping reporters at bay. But, if indeed she is unavailable for further comment, I would have had someone else issue the statement. I would have also asked the staff at Pace Communications to redirect the call.

If you spend any length of time in nonprofit communications, you will undoubtedly encounter a situation similar to this. Personnel crises happen and they can be the most uncomfortable to deal. Planning in advance for these help you execute them rapidly and professionally.

In addition, planning ahead helps you to more easily detach yourself from the situation. Often, the person or people involved will be someone you have worked with closely and with whom you’ve developed a relationship. You don’t want personal feelings of hurt and anger to prevent you from doing your job effectively.

So, what’s your plan?

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Filed under Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Industry News

ABC News Seeks to Attract Politically Active Youth on Facebook

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According to the New York Times via Bulldog Reporter, Facebook, the social networking site is teaming up with ABC News to create political content through a new “U.S. Politics” category. Facebook, which used to be limited to college students is now available for public use. Even old people like me can now connect with friends and colleagues on the site.

 

To underscore their collaboration, the two organizations will announce this week that they are jointly sponsoring Democratic and Republican presidential debates in New Hampshire on Jan. 5, three days before the primary election there. “Through this partnership, we want to extend the dialogue both before and after the debate,” Dan Rose, Facebook’s vice president for business development, told Times writer Brian Stelter.

 

The announcements are another sign that news organizations are looking to capitalize on the potential power of Facebook, which began as a database of college friendships, and other social networking sites. Media companies like the Times and the Washington Post have produced pages for use on Facebook and some newspapers, magazines and television stations have recently invited users to join special pages that are set up to follow reporters’ political coverage. But ABC‘s new relationship is intended to be deeper.

 

“There are debates going on at all times within Facebook,” David Westin, the president of ABC News and a new Facebook member, told the Times. “This allows us to participate in those debates, both by providing information and by learning from the users.”

Is your organization taping into the power of Facebook? Compared to rival MySpace, Facebook is carving a niche for themselves as a go-to site for professionals and organizations. Many of the groups I belong to, such as PRSA, have a presence on Facebook. It’s something to consider adding to your communications mix.

Look for a “Storytellers Network” Facebook group soon!

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Filed under Media Buzz, Social Networking

Hello world!

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After some time away, I’ve decided to return to this project. I do believe there is a great deal of potential in what we can do when we come together as a community of communicators. More soon.

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