Pluses of a weekend ‘big story’ or crisis Romney knew and used


Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan his running mate. The relevant aspect here is that he did so on a Saturday. Why? What were they thinking?

No one’s paying attention on a summer Saturday, right? If anyone’s disconnected from media, it’s over a weekend. Who watches TV Saturday night? The Olympics were peaking, the PGA was running with Tiger Woods in the lead at the turn. Back-to-school shopping is in full swing. Is this another example of botched Romney media thinking?

No, they were quite effective, and as Scott Van Kamp pointed out in PR News recently, Romney’s advisors took advantage of some weekend media realities that aren’t always apparent.

First, there’s usually little competition on a Saturday. The daily grind of economic, political and foreign news often takes a weekend breather. Next, while this may be only marginally true for a big story like a veep selection, most media outlets are staffed by less-senior reporters and editors. That gives the pitch teams better chances that a story will play the way they want it.

Next, tweets are more likely to be read on Saturday, for similar reasons. There is less overall volume and people want to keep up with what’s happening while they’re not working. That helps media managers utilize social media most effectively.

And, finally, there’s Sunday. As daily newspaper circulation fades toward nill, Sunday circulation remains relatively strong. Combine that with the prominent Sunday morning network and cable news talk shows and Sunday evening’s edition of 60 Minutes — which “scored” the first combined Romney-Ryan interview — and a media manager faces many positive options.

As Morgan McLintic, executive vice-president at Lewis Public Relations, documented for Van Kamp’s story, weekends can be very good opportunities to mange media in your favor. His and his colleagues’ five suggestions on how to handle a weekend crisis or big story include the following:

1. Grow a phone tree: If you’re an agency, know who your main client contact is and know who the backup is. If you’re in corporate PR, have main and back-up contacts for key members of your organization who will need to know that the crisis is happening.

2. Have a backup voice: It’s best practice to have a primary spokesperson and a backup spokesperson pre-selected, just in case the first person is completely unreachable over the weekend (their phone may not have reception if they are atop a mountain skiing or in the middle of the ocean snorkeling).

3. Have media content ready: The journalists covering the crisis over the weekend are likely not the same people your CEO has spoken to time and time again, and it’s therefore less likely your company fits his or her beat. Having updated content available to share with the journalists will help him or her put things in better perspective, and become better acclimated with the company’s background and most recent news. Simple press kits loaded onto flash drives or file transfer sites will suffice.

4. Be well-equipped:
Make sure the people involved have the equipment to work remotely. For instance, some people leave their laptops at work.

5. Make the crisis an opportunity:
Reporters also don’t always expect a response over the weekend so it helps to build the relationship if you can work with them out of hours.

All good advice.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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