Entropy and Empathy: Our 2020 Coaster Ride
2020 has been a wild ride: the year started off great, the economy was chugging along, professional sports were getting close to playoffs. It was like being pulled up the big hill on a roller coaster and making the first drop. All of our hands went up and we collectively screamed in excitement for what was to come during the rest of 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit and our roller coaster decided to stall out upside down on a loop-to-loop.
Shock, fear, and anger were probably some of the first feelings that occurred as you were stuck upside-down in real life, forced to shelter in place, quarantine, or whatever your state called social distancing in an effort to slow the progression of the virus.
What else do you do when you’re stuck inside for days? You think! For me, things start to come into perspective during difficult times. Maybe that’s all of the blood rushing to my head in this metaphorical roller coaster ride, but as I’m talking to people throughout the country, some still employed, some not, I am realizing that while the challenges may look different for each of us, everyone is facing hard times nonetheless. This idea crystallized during a media training seminar we held for a client earlier this week.
In our conversations with a spokesperson for a national company, nearly every discussion came back to one idea- practice more empathy- when trying to convey her company’s message while working with journalists. Surprised? So was she. She felt she and her company were unfairly treated by the media and her interactions with media partners were frequently prickly. Fair enough, we said, but did you know:
According to Forbes, the United States is among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Yes, our United States.
Poynter is maintaining a running list of journalism jobs that have been lost due to COVID-19.
This USA Today article shows that newspaper reporters and broadcasters are the 3rd and 8th worst jobs to have in America, respectively.
You get the idea. Journalists are under immense pressure. Even before COVID-19, industry consolidation and a decrease in ad revenue had already claimed a considerable number of broadcast and journalism jobs. Those who are left are overworked, underpaid (and have frequently taken pay cuts), and in many cases, underappreciated.
If your eyes are wide after clicking through those links, imagine how our trainee felt! (Either that or you are truly having an out-of-body experience as the blood rush continues to your head in this roller coaster ride we’re all living in!) In all seriousness, knowing more about the challenges journalists are facing in their own industry gives a different perspective, which is good. Our client gained a new perspective on why her interactions may have been challenging. It also helped her take prickly interactions less personally, which is always a good idea when working with media partners. Remember, it’s never about you as a spokesperson; it’s about your company and the people affected by what’s happening.
At M&C, we believe that empathy is the key to maintaining good working relationships with our partners and clients. By being mindful of what journalists are facing in their own professional lives, spokespeople around the country can work toward building more productive relationships with members of the media.
That got me to thinking: I can use my experience as a broadcast journalist to give my best advice for creating better relationships with your media partners. Over the next couple weeks, I am going to talk to some of my former colleagues to bring you their perspective: what they find helpful, or irritating, or what they wish spokespeople would do to help them in their reporting, especially as our lives are upended by the challenges we’re all facing from COVID-19. I hope these gold nuggets of wisdom will help us all get off of this darn roller coaster and get our two feet back on the ground!
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