When it comes to a company's reputation, many times people are betting on the jockey just as much, or more than, the horse. An example of this was highlighted in a recent blog post in TechJournal. Yahoo had suffered blows to its reputation in recent years and attempted to elevate its standing by bringing in Scott Thompson as the new CEO. Initially, the strategy worked. 

The company's media coverage under his predecessor, Carol Bartz, had dropped to a point where news coverage skewed negatively, with 40 percent of all news critical of the company. In four months, Thompson was able to improve favorable media coverage by 15 percent due to his image, media savvy and availability to journalists. 

However, the trend quickly reversed when it was found that Thompson had padded his resume and left the company, with news trends dropping to 48 percent negative. More than half of all Yahoo coverage was dominated by news of Thompson's mistakes and his needlessly poor handling of the matter. After a few weeks of being pummeled in the news cycle, the company named a new interim CEO and negative coverage began to dissipate. 

Company CEOs must master media relations and understand news dynamics if they want to successfully raise and maintain their company's reputation through the media. It is essential in today's 24/7 news cycle that CEOs are always prepared, trained and available on demand when media opportunities arise.

Grasping the Changes in News Media A recent blog post by Stijn Debrouwere provides some accurate and unique insights into today's state of journalism, how we got here, and where we are going. We found several points worthy of consideration: Stdout.be contends that journalism as we know it is being replaced. He cites the increasing use of online forums for reviews and recommendations for everything from food to movies to music. According to him, disruptive online sources of information and social media are replacing most of traditional journalism, except for the investigative side of reporting. The entire concept of journalism is changing, according to the author. While 40 percent of U.S. adults would be upset if they had lost their daily newspaper in 2009, that number has dropped to 25 Percent today. News media is losing advertising clout to other online destinations. How does traditional journalism remain valuable to the public? The blog provides a number of suggestions. Improve your storytelling personality (further shading the line between journalism and entertainment), downsize and capitalize on scale (how much further can news organizations downsize from here?), and do stuff that matters. The problem seems to be that doing the stuff that matters today may not be so much about news, but instead, more about titillation.

In Whom Do We Trust? A recent article in Adweek questions whether traditional news media (or "legacy media") are still the most trusted sources of information. Since public trust has become one of the few things that news organizations can still hang their hat on, this is an important question. According to the article, the public is not happy with news reporting. According to Gallup, in 1985, only 34 percent of the public said that news reports were often inaccurate. By July of last year, that number had ballooned to 66 percent. Americans believe that the media tends to favor one side of a controversy and 80 percent believe that media reports are often influenced by powerful people and organizations. This distrust is beginning to carry over into the advertisers who support the news media, says the article, citing a Nielsen report that states that less than half of ads in mainstream media are trusted. This can have strong implications on media companies' long term survival. News media faces a tough challenge - consumers want information immediately, but they also want it vetted. The conclusion of this article is that most news media organizations would be better served to build trust by not racing news to the market and to take the time to verify a story before reporting it.

When it comes to getting the word out, apparently nothing beats Twitter. A recent GigaOm article sought to explain how a 24/7 news cycle combined with technology has brought Twitter to the forefront of online news delivery. One example cited by the article was the fact that news of Whitney Houston's death was viral via Twitter and Facebook as much as an hour before any mainstream news media picked up on it. The original tweet apparently came from a relative of the maid who found her body. Has the news cycle shrunk like AP's Tom Curley said in the article - from three hours pre-9/11 to 30 minutes today, and in reality for younger people three minutes? Should the news media even try to keep up with Twitter and other social media sites to report breaking news? Credibility has value. Most of us have received a Twitter or Facebook post that shook our world, only to discover later on that it was a hoax or mistake. Taking the time to digest breaking news and corroborate reports with trusted sources of information might lose the "scoop" value, but can result in a stronger and more informative story.

A recent post on the NJTC TechWire blog discussed the need for companies to integrate social media into their PR strategies - but not to replace traditional media along the way. As long-time Trylon SMR subscribers know, we agree that social media is an effective PR tool, but only one of many effective platforms that can be utilized to implement an effective PR strategy. 

Per the post, there are several factors that make the integration of traditional media and social media work so well. First off, traditional media carries credibility. When your audience sees you appearing in trusted traditional media, you achieve a level of credibility that is yet to be attained by social media. Brands like the NY Times, CNN, ABC, etc. still carry plenty of clout. 

Where does a social media event start? In many cases a social media story originates in a news article or segment on television or in the paper. An influential blogger or Twitter user may see something in the news that catches their attention and once they begin commenting on it, the viral aspect of social media takes over. But the spark came from a traditional media mention. 

Ultimately, your PR strategy should be to deliver a well-crafted, targeted message to your core audience. Spending the time and resources necessary to ensure that every communication conveys your message completely should be paramount. Then focus on how and where this message first appears, and let the media machine take over.