Memory studies consistently find that people forget the vast majority of what they read, hear, or see, especially if they are only exposed to the information one time. One early study by Herman Ebbinghaus, the 19th-century German psychologist who was among the first to study human memory, found that people forget most of what they learn within days.
I’m occasionally asked whether it’s ever appropriate to “freeze a reporter out,” or refuse to speak to him again. Whenever I hear that, I immediately think of a scene out of The Godfather or Fatal Attraction, complete with horse’s head and boiled bunny. I imagine frustrated interviewees suddenly appearing as caped crusaders, exacting their revenge on unfair journalists by “rubbing them out.”
I’ve done hundreds of radio interviews throughout my career. They seem simple. After all, you just pick up a phone or visit a studio and have a conversation with the host. But radio interviews are nothing like normal conversations (unless your friends take listener phone calls and toss to a commercial break every few minutes!).
In an age of public conversations, ethical decision making and accurate communications are top of mind for the PR professional. With the public accessing social media for their news and information, the topic of ethics is even more prominent. The major professional associations provide a Code of Ethics to educate and guide PR professionals on the subject. However, with the shifting media landscape and technology advancing rapidly, communications ethics are challenged.
Most people don’t know how to use a telephone. Sure, they talk on the phone with their family, friends, and business contacts every day. But the telephone habits they use during those calls are radically different from the ones they need for print or radio interviews conducted by phone, known as “phoners.”
Today’s PR professionals need to thoroughly understand the media landscape. Increased knowledge and the ability to navigate new channels helps them to build stronger relationships with journalists and to effectively communicate stories to the public. The changes we’ve seen to date have been swift and steady, making it even more important for us to stay abreast of the communication preferences of our media friends, especially as they experience monumental changes in their writing styles and reporting methods.
My media training clients often tell me they don’t trust reporters because they use “sleazy” tactics to coax information from them. When I hear that, I ask my clients this question: “Are there ever times you tell your colleagues something behind closed doors that you’d rather not share with the reporter?”
We had what was, for the City of Boston, “major breaking news” recently as four-term Mayor Tom Menino announced he would not be seeking a fifth run at the City’s highest elected office.