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17 Oct 2014

The Scene: Retro Report

Today’s news cycle is a fast one. Is that a good thing?

Yes and no.

Marketing and PR professionals will someday be faced with a crisis, or some bad news from your organization. A fast news cycle pushes that bad news off the front pages sooner than in the past, for better or worse.

But a fast news cycle also means your good news is pushed off the front pages sooner. That’s why it’s important to be precise in getting the attention of your audience and being creative so you keep that attention.

And sometimes, the fast news cycle creates a narrative that misleads the public. 

Which brings me to Retro Report, the coolest thing the New York Times has ever done (in my opinion, of course).

Retro Report looks at big news stories of the past and talks to the people involved. It’s part where-are-they-now and part retrospective, hence the name. 

And communications professionals should pay attention.

For instance, we all know the story of when McDonald’s was sued for not indicating on its cups that its hot coffee is, indeed, hot. The narrative the public consumed was that this was about frivolous lawsuits.

But did you know the plaintiff in the case had burns on more than 16 percent of her body? Or that McDonald’s had almost 700 previous complaints about hot coffee before this incident? Those facts present an opportunity for smart communicators. Unfortunately, the narrative in the media was much different.

Communication professionals need to be aggressive and precise in getting out the truth before the public starts to believe a twisted narrative.

(PR Daily has a related blog on how Gone Girl provides communication professionals a lesson on this topic)

Some of those featured on Retro Report might feel vindicated, but many years later, does it really change anything? That’s why the truth should be properly communicated before the story gets out of hand.

By Kevin Dudley, Spokane MarCom President