Our perception of what is going on around us and what is happening in the world is to a large extent determined by what we see and hear in the media. A couple of seconds of footage can influence our opinion on world matters, people and situations and without realising it we have been coerced or possibly even managed into forming a certain opinion.

The general public, especially in the UK are very trusting so most of the time we accept information presented to us as being fact. As a consequence we don’t challenge the stories or seek alternative views. Freedom of speech together with a regulated press and media industry surely guarantee we hear the truth and balanced opinion all the time. Ask any part time lawyer specialising in libel and slander!

I always find it interesting watching news footage of ongoing items – Middle East conflicts are a good example where it is easy to assume that the footage is always fresh and new – ‘this is what’s happening today.’ But if you follow a topic for a few days or weeks you will often see the same footage repeated. Already our impression of the truth is being distorted.

The choice of footage and the commentary that accompanies news can also paint a picture of good or bad, competent or incompetent, like or dislike. We have no choice over this and if you think for a minute you will be able to recall organisations which in the public eye can do no wrong, or public figures who are always portrayed as buffoons.

Now I’m going to sound like a conspiracy theorist. Would it be too much to think that there could even be some motives or controls behind what is published or presented to us? Conversely one could argue that, it may be possible, at least to some extent, to control our own destiny and get the coverage we deserve?

Some of our organisations, by the very nature of what they do are going to attract more than their fair share of negative media comment. If we know that is the case there are steps we can take to respond to such coverage or even take a proactive approach to try and secure a more balanced view. The challenge is that the appetite for big bad stuff is greater than the appetite for everyday good news stories. Media coverage is also very short and sharp so damage can be done very quickly and if an apology is subsequently justified it will appear as a three line item on a corner of a page or as 4 seconds of script from a presenter days after the original item. The damage is done, opinions have been formed, passed on, recycled and accentuated.

Given the risk that audiences believe and trust everything they see in the media you need to be alert to the potential consequences of coverage about your organisation.

As an organisation or individual what image do you portray? How will your actions be perceived by others? How will you engage and respond to negative coverage? Who are your allies and enemies? Is there any influence you can exert over the eventual outcome?

This topic is not usually one of the early priorities in a Business Continuity programme but it is an important one and certainly one that is worth understanding and investing some time in.

July 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm
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Category: Planning
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