Thought Leadership in the Age of Fake News

thought leadership, fake news, Elon musk, Chris Brogan, Doris Kearns Goodwin,

One of the traditionally best routes to positive brand identity, media exposure, and best of all—public trust, is if the founder, CEO, or public face of an entity you represent is, or has the potential to be, what we call a “thought leader.”

“Thought leader” is a jargon-y term, somewhat overused, but succinctly descriptive. A thought leader is a trusted expert in his/her field, often called upon to discuss innovation, best practices, or even the future of said field.

For example, Elon Musk is a thought leader in electric vehicles and space travel; Chris Brogan is a thought leader in marketing and social media; Douglas Brinkley and Doris Kearns Goodwin are thought leaders on American presidents.

Which brings us to the topic of “fake news.” To be clear, fake news isn’t new. While it is exacerbated by the immediacy—and the anonymity—of the Internet, fake news is not a product of the Internet. From Anecdoa to pasquinades to canards, fake news has been with us pretty much since humans could whisper and wink.

In the past, however, we all recognized the difference between stories about Sasquatch reigning terror across the Yukon and the Taliban reigning terror across Afghanistan. Now, we have honest-to-God fabrications finding their way into the news cycle, as well as people with traditionally venerated bully pulpits claiming any news they don’t like is fake—regardless of who reported it or how un-fake it really is.

Setting aside that entire mess, let’s focus for a moment on what that means for PR professionals. We spend much of our time trying to maintain or promote clients as thought leaders in media outlets that once were trusted sources but now are barraged with charges that they are purveyors of fake news.

Entering into any public conversation these days is not for the faint of heart. The topic could be “The Beauty of Roses” and before you can say “stop and smell them,” someone has posted that “Roses are a faux romantic symbol of the Princess trope foisted on young girls as a means of oppression. Boycott Roses!” And so it goes.

In a recent industry survey, 91% of journalists believe the public trusts them less in 2017 than in years past. With the public so angry and media under relentless attack, will people see our clients as reputable thought leaders or as suspicious co-conspirators with alleged fake news outlets? Should we still try to have our clients featured as thought leaders in media outlets?

Yes.

But let’s not stop there. It’s still a good thing for clients to be quoted in media coverage of a topic that’s germane to their expertise, thereby achieving third party validation of their role as thought leaders. The key is to be selective in where you place them.

  • Look for media outlets that retain the public trust, that maintain “standards and practices,” and that maintain clear lines between reportorial, editorial, and sales.
  • Look for bloggers who are themselves recognized leaders in their area of expertise.
  • Avoid outlets with a known political bent (unless that’s your audience).
  • Avoid outlets that are “pay to play.”

The other key is to be prolific.

  • Create think pieces (beyond blogs) for the company’s website and newsletters.
  • Write articles for the company’s LinkedIn page.
  • Create “white papers” on issues concerning your clients’ industries and professions.

As we’ve seen, anyone can dispute facts they don’t like. That doesn’t make those facts any less real. If your clients have something valuable to say, help them say it and help them find the right audience.

Dinosaurs Unearthed Opens at the Portland Science Center

*FIRST TIME IN NEW ENGLAND*

Exhibit of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, skeletons, and fossils

Added Attraction: Art exhibit by local artist Philip Carlo Patatore

Dinosaurs Unearthed, Portland Science Center

PORTLAND, ME | NOVEMBER 17, 2016 – For the ultimate “Throwback Thursday” Portland Science Center today announced that its exhibition of animatronic prehistoric life, Dinosaurs Unearthed, will open tomorrow.

Dinosaurs Unearthed is a multi-media, interactive immersion in dinosaur discovery. Its arrival at the Portland Science Center marks the first time this immensely popular exhibit has ever opened in New England.

The exhibit opens November 18, 2016 and will run through early Spring.

(For information on the exhibition and to purchase tickets, please visit portlandsciencecenter.com.)

“Thirteen of the dinosaurs are fully animatronic,” says Joe Gold, President of The Gold Group, which owns and operates The Portland Science Center. “The creators of these dinosaurs consult with paleontologists and researchers to ensure the most scientifically accurate result. The dinosaurs move smoothly and realistically—it’s really riveting.”

Powered by customized mechanical technology and a dynamic jointing system, the dinosaurs, ranging from a Velociraptor to a Triceratops to a juvenile T-Rex come to “life” in Dinosaurs Unearthed. The exhibit places each creature in naturalistic indoor landscapes and challenges our understanding of how dinosaurs lived, looked, and sounded in their pre-historic time. In relatively recent years, paleontologists have come to believe that some dinosaurs are the ancestors of modern birds—leading to the hypothesis that some dinosaurs may have been feathered.

“The exhibit includes a feathered Tyrannosaurus Rex,” added Gold. “This may be one of the most striking for people to see.”

An added, unique component at the Portland Science Center will be an exhibition of work by University of Southern Maine art professor, Philip Carlo Patatore, whose “Dinosaur Portfolio” is evocative of the spirit of exploration and the science of discovery.

In addition to the animatronic creatures, the exhibition will feature full-sized skeletons: a Yangchuanosaurus and a Tuojiangosaurus, as well as myriad simulated—and real—dinosaur fossils.

Dinosaurs Unearthed also features interactive stations such as a “Kids Dig Table” and “Dinosaur Digestion.”

Since the very first bones, teeth, and fossils were discovered, dinosaurs have fascinated humans. Dinosaurs Unearthed is designed to appeal to all ages.

Is the Kim Kardashian Brand in Trouble?

Kim Kardashian, Public relations, Kardashian brand, Kardashian paris robbery, Kanye West

What does it mean when a popular brand is in distress and a considerable percentage of public response ranges from “It’s probably a publicity stunt” to “That’s what you get for showing off?”

As we all know now, Kim Kardashian, at whose PR savvy we have previously marveled, was recently the victim of an armed robbery while in Paris for Fashion Week.

Kardashian, with 48.3 million followers on Twitter and 84.2 million on Instagram, is the antithesis of shy. She generously shares every moment of her life with her fans and they with her. You may well wonder why she has fans, but that would just reveal your card-carrying membership in the Society of Crankypants.

While her reported ordeal at the hands of masked gunmen who tied her up and helped themselves to $9 million of her well publicized jewelry did elicit an outpouring of sympathy for the mother of two small children, it also unleashed a storm of scolding and outright skepticism. Everything from “Who travels with $9 million worth of jewelry?” to “Well, you know, Kanye West is $53 million in debt…”

Despite the tens of millions of fans, Kim Kardashian’s is a love/hate brand. Her fans love her. And, as they say, the haters gonna hate. In this era of living out loud and bilious anonymity, where everyone’s a pundit (yes, the irony of writing this in a blog abounds), love is all around, until it isn’t.

Is the Kim Kardashian brand in trouble? Does her crisis communications team need to swing into high gear? (The Paris Tourism bureau’s certainly does.) Will her new status as crime victim eclipse her image as CEO in charge of her fame and growing fortune?

Probably not.

With a net worth pegged at $51million derived from reality TV, and a mobile app, her savvy goes beyond being a PR machine. Her brand will withstand the raised eyebrows and the doubters, and likely will emerge stronger than ever—especially if the culprits are found and brought to justice.

One piece of advice for Kim: Get a new security firm. The one you have now has a real PR problem.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance: How They Apply to a Public Relations Campaign

public relations, The Knight Canney Group, five stages of grief

We’ve all been there.  The five stages of grief.

Numb with disbelief, simmering rage, looking for some give and take, laid low by loss, then facing the truth: No one is going to bite on your pitch. Responses so far have ranged from dead silence to “good luck with that.”

Now comes the worst part: you knew it would end like this. Why? Because you let the client steamroll you with a project that either wasn’t ready, didn’t have a clear strategy, or, in the end, just wasn’t a good story.  A good public relations campaign starts with a good story. If you don’t have one, start pushing that boulder up the hill.

So now what? You didn’t manage client expectations , you’ve wasted some of your own capital with your media contacts, you’ve come up empty handed, and the client is still looking for coverage. Can this pitch be saved? Maybe.

Despite the enduring popularity of The Walking Dead, you really can’t raise the dead (that’s the acceptance, part), but perhaps you can dabble in reincarnation.

With the client, take a hard look at the story, the strategy, the assets, the product—if there is one—and the timing.

  • Who’s the target audience?
  • What is the story you want told?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What assets (products, information, interviews, access) will be available to help tell it?
  • Is there a better time to tell it?

If there are no clear answers to these questions, then find them, and retool the pitch. Let the reporters know you’re bringing more to the table this time. (That’s the bargaining part: if they’ll give you a few minutes of their time, you’ll have something worth hearing.) It’s a harder sell the second time around, but it’s possible.

But what, you ask, about those times when the client brings you a great story, all the assets anyone could want, interesting interviews, knockout visuals, and perfect timing? And still no one bites? What then? Well, that’s the depression part. Good luck with that.