Beasts at Your Corporate Gate: How to Confront Media and Activist Adversaries

A Corporate Communications Section Brown Bag Discussion

Hosted by the Corporate Communications Section.

This interactive discussion is not currently available. Email the Sections Department to inquire about future availability of this program.

Category: Media Relations

Competitive pressures and ideology are creating perverse incentives for journalists, and the like, to cause harm to companies’ market share, stock value, brand, and reputation. And those incidents are happening with alarming frequency and drastic consequences.

Facts and enlightenment, once the compass points of objective news reporting, have become potential impediments for those media outlets that seek to cause maximum controversy and damage to their subjects. At the same time, a whole constellation of agenda-driven activist groups has arisen whose entire purpose is to manufacture ready-made angles, sourcing, data, and other essential story elements. For companies, this means that a media crisis may no longer be incidental or tied to some actual wrongdoing. Today such crises can be created out of even the thinnest justification.

The activist-media dynamic also can be predatory, with attackers counting on a company’s inability to effectively respond. Such attackers often assume that their targets are vulnerable and, if pressed, will either compromise or give in altogether.

But journalists can be held accountable and even the most aggressive activist groups can be confronted and rebuked. What’s required is a strategy that recognizes that modern news media can be hostile, aggressive, willing to disregard standards and collude with antagonists. To break a siege — or avoid being targeted in the first place — requires assertive communications above all else.

In this session, Jim McCarthy will discuss what steps some companies are taking when threatened in the public discourse, and detail how you can apply untraditional approaches for the benefit of your own organization.


Jim McCarthy, president and CEO, CounterPoint Strategies

Photo of Jim McCarthy

CounterPoint’s guiding strategy is called “media accountability,” which enforces fundamental journalism standards in the public discourse on behalf of clients and their issues. McCarthy is on the adjunct faculty at American University in their School of Communication, lecturing on crisis management theory and case studies. He is also a frequent lecturer at Johns Hopkins University.


Steve Zenofsky, APR, Fellow PRSA, assistant vice president and manager of public relations, FM Global

Photo of Steve Zenofsky, APR, Fellow PRSA

With more than two decades of experience in corporate, nonprofit and health care, Zenofsky oversees public relations strategy, execution and reputation management for FM Global, one of the world’s largest business property insurers. He is immediate past chair of PRSA’s Corporate Communications Section and sits on PRSA’s Accreditation Marketing Committee. He also serves on the Conference Board’s Council on Corporate Communications Strategy II executive committee.