As communications professionals, we are often in a position to help our clients craft their messaging and work hard to ensure that it is communicated properly.
Sometimes, that means providing to the media specific details, such as how to spell or pronounce certain names or words, proper terminology or even recommendations on how to refer to things that they may not know much about. It doesn’t involve telling the media how to actually report a story.
A couple of examples come to mind.
Several years ago, we suggested to the Phoenix media about how to refer to a crime that had occurred at one of our client’s businesses. Rather than call it the “Brand X” “crime,” we asked the media to call it the “generic” crime, as the company had hundreds of locations throughout the state that had nothing to do with the isolated incident at one location. All but one media outlet complied. The lone dissenter told us, “That’s our way of branding the story. Too bad.”
Another situation arose last year in which a tribal client was in the news – through no doing of its own. Sacred objects that belonged to the tribe – but were in possession of someone they shouldn’t have been -- were being sold at auction. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the descriptions of the objects were horribly offensive to the tribe and photos of them appearing in the media were even more appalling to them. In some cases we were successful, but our suggestions to the media about how to describe the objects were, for the most part, ignored despite multiple, formal reminders.
Astonishingly, when those rules are broken, press credentials are revoked.
This year is the 20th anniversary of when CBS announcer Gary McCord noted that the greens at Augusta were so fast they must be “bikini waxed.” He hasn’t been back since.
I guess this is where the First Amendment and sports coverage collide.