Public Relations Tactics

PR Blotter: July 2014

July 1, 2014

The faith that Americans have in major news media — television, newspapers and the Internet — is below or tied with record lows, a new Gallup poll says.

Confidence in newspapers has declined by more than half since its 1979 peak of 51 percent, while trust in TV news has slipped from its high of 46 percent in 1993, the first year that Gallup measured the sentiment.

Confidence in newspapers differs widely between liberals and conservatives, according to the survey. Only 15 percent of the self-identified conservatives polled said they have a great deal of confidence in newspapers, tied with a 10-year low. By comparison, 34 percent of liberals expressed confidence in newspapers. Twenty-four percent of moderates said they have confidence in newspapers. And at 19 percent, conservatives are more likely than liberals (15 percent) to express confidence in TV news.

The news media has changed dramatically since Gallup first began measuring the public’s confidence in newspapers and TV news decades ago. Newspaper circulation continues to shrink. Cable-news networks continue to proliferate, and news from the Internet now figures prominently in the average American’s news diet.

Feel optimistic, have empathy, acknowledge your own luck, and be willing to accept heartbreak, Bill and Melinda Gates told Stanford University’s 2014 graduates on June 15.

“Optimism, for me, isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better,” Mrs. Gates said during a stirring commencement address. “It’s a conviction that we can make things better — that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is, we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.”

Drawing from her own experiences of witnessing poverty and the ravages of AIDS in India, she added, “Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism.”

On the role of luck in success, she said that as Microsoft’s cofounder and former CEO, her husband Bill “worked incredibly hard and took risks and made sacrifices for success. But there is another essential ingredient of success, and that ingredient is luck — absolute and total luck. Who were your parents? Where did you grow up? None of us earned these things. They were given to us. When we strip away our luck and privilege and consider where we’d be without them, it becomes easier to see someone who’s poor and sick and say, ‘That could be me.’”

Empathy “tears down barriers and opens up new frontiers for optimism,” she told the graduating class. “Take your genius and your optimism and your empathy, and go change the world in ways that will make millions of others optimistic as well.”

A recent study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that when people stand during meetings, they appeared more excited by their work, acted less territorial about their ideas and interacted better as a team.

The research, which the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science published, asked more than 200 undergraduates to develop and record videos in small teams.

Some of the groups worked in a room with chairs set up around a table, while others worked in the same room but without chairs. The students working without the chairs found that the meetings promoted “affiliation and collective sensemaking, both of which are essential for motivating collective action.”

On June 6, the CIA announced that it is joining Twitter and Facebook. CIA Director John Brennan explained the move in a news release: “We have important insights to share, and we want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public.”

And perhaps the CIA will do so with a sense of humor. The agency made an amusing foray into the Twittersphere, by posting: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

According to Gallup’s State of the American Consumer report, 62 percent of Americans say that Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites do not influence their decisions to purchase products. While social media may have more influence than some Americans realize or will admit, the survey shows that few consumers consciously take into account what they learn from social media when making purchases.



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