News is about who, what, where, when, and why, with why always being the most difficult question to answer. Why is also what ordinary individuals who get drafted into media turbulence ask after days of relentless pursuit by reporters and producers for every morsel of information. After nearly two decades of directing clients through the rugged media landscape, I am still always taken aback when a client asks me, “Why do they care about what I do?” Ordinary people, leading ordinary lives, and who end up in extraordinary circumstances are often clueless when they become the subject of an ongoing story.
Events involving the greatest sorrow, extreme failings of judgment or remarkable feats of heroism are the very moments that attract our full attention – because we are humans watching other humans. In a matter of seconds, life can turn on a dime for anyone, and sometimes that turn drives worldwide attention.
Coming to terms with instant “celebrity” carries unexpected burdens that most “civilians” remain unaware of until it happens to them. It is not uncommon for unassuming victims of a devastating incident to be introduced to the aggressive ways of the news business by receiving a reporter’s surprise phone call within minutes of a catastrophe starting.
Retaining a crisis communications/reputation manager to deflect the siege of calls and surprise visits by TV crews showing up at the doorstep, is usually an unplanned investment, but one that pays off with the client having confidence that the unknown is being handled by someone who understands it all.
Today’s incessant news coverage and the foundation of competition that fuels it aren’t going anywhere. Thanks to television and the internet, audiences want and expect instant gratification. Audiences expect immediate answers to the drama we see on 24-hour news just like an episode of Law and Order.