The Media and Financial PR

“You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war,” William Randolph Hearst cabled Frederic Remington in 1898. In that vain attempt to foment a war with the Spanish, the newspaper magnate of “Rosebud” fame kicked off the form of journalism known as “yellow.”

What he wrought and what we thought to be vanished to all but the supermarket tabloids, is back today in widespread force and with great depth that invades almost every section of newspapers and trade publications throughout the nation. There are no rules, it seems, anymore. It is a world, it seems, of celebrity journalism: Write a story with just a sliver of exclusivity and you’re a shoe-in to appear on Capitol Report, Hardball and The Abrams Report. It appears that the pursuit of news has deteriorated to one that seeks the sensational, the glamour, the gossip, rather than that which affects our daily lives.

There’s clearly reason for concern here, as notwithstanding the substantial deterioration of newspapers as the nation’s leading primary dispenser of general news, they remain the dissemination point for financial news. Individual or smaller investors frequently use a range of media, print and electronic, local and national as a basis for their investment decisions. And what are they getting? All of a sudden, an uptick in a single economic indicator for one month, be it Unemployment, Consumer Confidence or Producer Prices, is a trend: “Unemployment fell one tenth of one percent last month.

It’s clear the economy is on a rebound,” newspaper leads often read. And, more often than not, defying logic, economists agree, adding credibility and credence to the story. Unequivocally, one month does not a trend make. This is the simplest example of the challenges the media today presents for companies that have important news to communicate. It’s exacerbated by a significant degeneration in the quality and integrity of reportage by major trade publications.

Recently, a journeyman reporter for one of the nation’s leading chains of trade publications conducted a two hour interview of one of our clients for a “company profile.” The reporter requested product for illustrations and left with a car load of apparel. Two months later, there was no story. The reporter had not returned the product and requested a second interview to “freshen” the story. When queried on the disposition or the article, the reporter responded that the story had been written, but was being “held up by my editor,” an excuse frequently used by neophyte journalists. We called the bluff and proposed the story directly to the editor, he had never heard of the company. Two days later the reporter, rather sheepishly, called us with a date for publication. This story was one of eminent newsworthiness, yet it required several months of merchandising for placement in a daily trade paper.

The quandary, then, is how to specifically disseminate a company’s message, particularly that of a small to mid-size company, to its financial constituencies in a cost effective manner. Certainly, stories of moment will be utilized by the major media, and frequently by local media: earnings, mergers, acquisitions, crisis issues and so forth. Strategically placed, and carried with the right spin, these stories can have a significant impact on public opinion, particularly in campaigns relating to hostile takeovers and defenses, litigation support and crisis communications efforts in general. They will, however, be competing for space with hundreds of stories each day. And, unless given substantial space and visibility, these stories will rarely have the broad impact of a wire service report of breaking news or a general feature.

Earnings and other material events transmitted via PrimeZone or other commercial dissemination vehicles will almost certainly be disclosed on Dow Jones News Service, Reuters, and Bloomberg Business News. These services running at 1000 or more words per minute are hungry for copy. And it is these wire services that will carry these primary messages to the financial community and carry them with greater impact and visibility than the general, printed financial media. The bottom line: Control the “tape,” control the wires and you will communicate and control your message.

Stern And Company
Public Relations
info @