Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Balance and Accuracy, the YoYo Factor

Wisdom from the Crisis Guru # 996
From Chapter 5, page 167, of “Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management” by James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

5.8 Balance and Accuracy, the YoYo Factor
In 30 years, I have seen only one satisfactory correction by a news outlet, and that was because the reporter was arrested and jailed for hacking an executive’s e-mail. If you want a satisfactory correction, remember the yo-yo factor… you’re on your own.
When it comes to balance and accuracy, you’re on your own (the yo-yo factor). I generally advise avoiding asking for corrections, letters to the editor, or even op-ed pieces or special blog commentaries. If you act preemptively when you know you have bad news, as we spoke of in the last section, coupled with an aggressive, web-based correction, clarification and commentary strategy on your website, combined with preemptively distributed messages to your constituencies, employees, stakeholders and others, you are going to find yourself in much more control of the story, and much more in control of the interpretation of the coverage.
In journalism today you have zero recourse for forcing corrections or clarifications. There are still one or two operating News Councils in the United States, but they really will not help you. The bottom line recommendation they make is to find a sympathetic reporter and do a news story about your concerns or your umbrage or your dissatisfaction. Clearly, this is a pretty lame approach, but reflects all media’s reluctance to correct mistakes, or to apologize. Even when the media is operating at their worst, which usually involves mass casualty situations, there is never an apology, never a concern for their impact on the lives of others. The New York Times is the classic example. Early in this century, they hired a consultant to analyze their databases to determine the level of errors, mistakes and wrong information. It was significant. There is a report available through their website. However, after a very brief period, less than a day, they decided that rather than clean their database, it was more important to leave the errors in place, apparently so that they would never miss an opportunity to pummel some unsuspecting news subject. When your job is saving the world, and in America you have a Constitutional Amendment that essentially says journalists can do this without many, if any, restrictions, rules or regulations, the responsibility for balance and accuracy is yours rather than the reporter’s. One of the most important ingredients of your media relations strategy in crisis is preparing from the beginning to maintain the balance, accuracy and credibility of your behavior and actions with your constituencies directly, rather than through traditional or new media channels.
James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA is the author of Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management, available now at

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