So, for the last month or so, I’ve been up to my ears in managing media for a very high profile murder trial going on here in Wichita. I was working for the courts and the trial was big, big news.
This is not the place to discuss the merits of the case, or the issue itself, but there were a few lessons learned that I thought were worth passing on.
As you can imagine, there was crazy media interest in this case. More than 150 credentialed reporters, from about two dozen organizations covered the trial. Enough satellite trucks that we had to close a lane of traffic on Main Street to park them all.
So, what are the take-aways with regard to media relations?
First, if you aren’t tracking social media,you’re entirely out of the loop. There were thousands of tweets and other social media posts regarding the trial. I live in the connected social media world, and I was still shocked by the sheer volume.
I was also saddened, and shocked by the gross inaccuracies that spread like wildfire via Twitter. Most were a result of laziness and ignorance, people repeating and retweeting, rather than checking things out. Some were intentional, leveraging repeating and retweeting to push an agenda.
Most disturbing were traditional media and ‘experts’ who didn’t do their homework, and spread misinformation via blogs and tweets.
Beyond social media, it’s clear that the definition of ‘media’ has and is changing rapidly. Because of the nature of this trial, we had a lot of folks claiming to be media who clearly weren’t. Many were just partisan players on one side of the issue or the other who knew they wouldn’t likely be able to get a seat in the courtroom (due to space limitations) and wanted a seat, or really wanted access to the media themselves. Those were fairly easy to weed out.
Harder was dealing with freelancers and those working for web only, or non-traditional but legitimate media outlets. Coming up with a fair and at least relatively objective way to identify who are ‘real media’ is going to become more and more difficult over time.
So what does that mean. Pretty simple. Get some help.
Managing media for a major event being covered by national and network level media is not an activity for an amateur or even the average PR person. There are tough calls to make, major egos to manage, and you have to be willing to make a few people more than a little bit angry. Trying to do it yourself would be a bit like watching monkeys play with guns.
It’s fun at first, but in the end, somebody’s gonna get hurt.