When “Telephone” Isn’t A PR Person’s Best Friend

ImageShow of hands. Who remembers the game telephone? You know, a group of people whisper in the ear of the person next to them whatever a different person whispered in their ear. Invariably, by the time the last person repeats – out loud – what the first person said, it is very wrong.

Whether the saying was difficult to remember, someone heard it wrong, intentionally said it wrong or wasn’t paying that much attention to begin with, the message started with ends up very different from what the last person said. The game was always good for a few laughs.

There is an adult version of telephone going on these days, however I don’t think it is very funny. This version features many more people and the ramifications for getting it wrong are no laughing matter.

In this game, when news happens some less than “calling it down the middle” is happening:

  •  More and more commentators are reporting the news without true training and – sometimes – with a preconceived bias are getting the facts wrong, ignoring them or putting their slant on things.
  •  Television news teases – wanting to draw viewers into a story coming up after break and put together by someone other than the reporter we worked with – could be somewhat inaccurate/dramatic.
  •  A headline, written by someone other than the reporter we worked with, would be sensational so the reader would…well, read on.

Now, for the most part, I don’t think the media tries to get it wrong – – it only hurts them in the long run – – but the result  becomes magnified in this social world.  The real audience who may not be paying full attention/not read the full story/etc., are tweeting, blogging, posting, etc., the story as gospel.

The reality is technology is facilitating the journalists who “need” to be first in reporting “facts” for a myriad of reasons and the non-journalists (you and me) who “need” to be first in letting their friends/acquaintances know that they are in the know.

The good news is technology also helps people like me. People like me whose job – in part – is to control the message.  We can:

  • Monitor posts to see what is being said, who is saying it and who is listening.
  •  Respond, when appropriate, to those who are getting “it” wrong with the facts and a link to relevant information/data/etc. that substantiates your point.
  • Determine who the big voices are and who should be contacted.
  • Create blogs/post with relevant content telling your side of the story.

While technology has many upsides, don’t forget to go to the source if they’ve gotten it wrong. There have been several times where I’ve reached out to the media when a headline wasn’t accurate or a tease a bit misleading. The key is to always deal with facts.

While responding to everyone may not be practical, reaching key people is certainly viable. Like anything else, we aren’t going to be able to reach everyone, but technology will allow us to establish our side.


3 thoughts on “When “Telephone” Isn’t A PR Person’s Best Friend

    1. I guess if we were to break it down to the least common denominator (or most common) – – yes. In many ways the onus comes down to the “real audience” and their ability (or desire) to distinguish fact from fiction.

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