• Sudel Retief

Not all publicity is good publicity

Throughout history, news outlets have sensationalised particular news stories. A strong headline that outlined some type of scandal would always sell newspapers; and the day’s top story on the evening news was always delivered with dramatic emphasis.

Over the past few years, we have seen a change in that the sensationalising of news is not just the fault of the media organisations.

In a media environment that is dominated by social media sharing, news can be taken out of context and blown completely out of proportion simply due to the massive audience reach that social media allows.

It’s a dangerous media world we live in. In just a few minutes a story can go from being completely unknown to being shared and re-shared across the world. And if the facts aren’t quite right, reputations can so easily and quickly be ruined.

What’s the real story?

Let’s look at a couple of stories to have come from the recent coverage of the NSW bushfires in December last year.

You’d have to be living under a rock to NOT know that our Prime Minister took a family vacation last December to Hawaii – a fairly ordinary thing for a husband and father to do. However this became one of the biggest news stories of the month, with countless articles being written and heated opinions shared.

Scott Morrison was clearly made out to be the biggest villain in Australia for his untimed holiday. Emotions were running high due to the devastation Australian families were facing; and everyone needed someone to lash out at. Within moments of news being shared that out PM was on leave with his family, we saw hundreds of angry Australian twitter users voicing their opinions.

To keep this story in the limelight, the media then presented NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons as the “hero”. Shane Fitzsimmons was shown saying all the right things, and because the public always enjoys having a hero up against a villain, this became a “news” story of its own. Shane Fitzsimmons is the hero and Scott Morrison is the villain, and the Australian public jumped on board.

Sharing opinions, not sharing news

Social media users fuel the media storm. Vision of a passionate Shane Fitzsimmons speaking at press conferences is shared with hashtags “Shane Fitzsimmons for PM”; while images of Scott Morrison sunning himself on a Hawaiian beach are being shared accompanied by the angry face emoji.

These news stories became so huge not because they are newsworthy, but because of audience opinion; and because of audience’s abilities to make their opinions public. Social media has given regular people a voice, and that voice has never been stronger. People’s opinions are becoming more newsworthy than the news itself.

At a different time, the Morrison’s family vacation and Mr Fitzsimmons’s press conference could have slipped under the radar if it weren’t for social media opinions. The facts are that both of these men were going about their jobs. One was on annual leave. The other was working overtime due to circumstance. But because we live in a world where news is delivered to us instantly and from so many different methods, these stories are simply everywhere.

The big question is then – what if something like this happened to you?

Every person and every business is subject to opinions on social media, and is at risk of becoming the next “news” story to be shared. So how can we make sure that our brand and our business is safe from this type of negative publicity?

The obvious answer to this is to always do the right thing! However, if something goes wrong and a media storm follows, your business can be ruined.

Having a media strategy is important, and should include such things as monitoring the media for any mentions of your brand; having a plan for instant follow ups on any negative press; and having a back up crisis management strategy – just in case the worst should happen.


Make sure you don’t become a victim of negative press.

Get in touch with My Media today and enjoy successful marketing campaigns tomorrow!

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