The American Planning Association podcast covers topics relating to planning and local government, featuring expert guests with backgrounds in planning, public engagement, government budgeting and related areas. If you are a podcast listener, this is worth subscribing to.
“In an unceasing effort to be seen as neutral, journalists time after time fell into the trap of presenting facts and lies as roughly equivalent…”
If it ain’t pizzazzy, it ain’t newsworthy
“the expectation that every major news event should offer drama in the style of a reality TV show. … When that excitement level isn’t met, the media often steps in to provide it. That takes the form of dramatizing the nation’s polarization, compete with laments about ‘divided America.’“
It’s the type of writing that justifies a subscription to the Washington Post.
Talking about The Hill’s retweeting of Donald Trump’s tweets, regardless of their truthfulness, Media Matters reminds us of a concept we should all bear in mind before hitting the publish button.
the “illusory truth effect,” a concept by which a lie begins to seem more true the more it’s repeated. A 2017 Wired article explains this as “a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth” and quotes University of Toronto psychologist Lynn Hasher as saying it’s “likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.”
The Guardian posted an article this morning, “Is streaming killing the radio star?” including this fact: “Since 2010, around 840,000 15 to 24-year-olds have switched off for good, according to research from Enders Analysis.”
As I read this, I realized for the first time that I’m one of those people. I no longer own a radio! That’s not something I consciously decided on. I simply had drifted over to spending all my time streaming music and listening to podcasts. The on-demand delivery of what I want when I want it has become the norm for me, not the linear format of radio.
And while I never made a conscious decision to stop listening to radio, over time, one by one, all my radios, from clock radio by the bed to kitchen radio, had been replaced by speakers that connect to my iPhone.
And reflecting on it today, I realized that the only time I ever hear a radio is in my Dentist’s office or if the Lyft driver turns a radio on.
This isn’t earth shattering. But it got me thinking about the quiet ways that change occurs. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
It’s not necessary for government to agree with everything they hear from the public. In fact it’s an impossibility on issues on which the public is divided. But it IS necessary for government to listen, acknowledge the input, and explain how it was used and explain the final decision. Only then will a reasonable person feel their input on a public issue was valued.
While speaking yesterday to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the question of building consensus and listening to people. I believe that every public engagement practitioner will recognize in his remarks the fundamentals of the best practices that we strive for. To hear these sentiments issuing from a national leader is encouraging. It helps me to believe that, amid the daily noise of government, wise and thoughtful leaders are still working to achieve a more equitable, responsive and representative government.
A lot of people and organizations appear to be making digital an essential good for the public service. My core claim is that the connection between digital and the public good is neither intuitive nor obvious, and I think we’re at a point where this is starting to cause some trouble.
…Digital is an instrumental good. It allows us to be more efficient (stewardship of the public purse) transparent (integrity), engaged (respect for democracy), and responsive to Canadians (respect for people).
…Are public service values commensurate with elevating digital to an essential good? It is not at all clear that they are – and in fact, the answer appears to be ‘no’.
…It’s time for a deeper conversation about digital in the Canadian public service. Why is digital good? Is #GCDigital commensurate with the public good in an essential way, or an instrumental way?
I believe that digital engagement will help strengthen the bond between citizen and public institution by making the opportunity for public input available to more people. Viewed from that perspective, it clearly can be seen as an instrument by which we can advance the essential good of trust and participation in government decisions.
On the other hand, I think the distinction between instrumental and essential is highly useful and applicable to real world decisions. For example, if it were clearly applied to the use of advertising-driven social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, a perspective that digital is instrumental would cause us to ask questions about the potential benefits and tradeoffs.
If this question were asked, it would drive us to use these networks as a means of information sharing, but to avoid them as a channel for public consultation. I see all too many government institutions (especially at the local level) who want to integrate Facebook pages or live videos or registration into their online consultations. They are so driven to “go digital” that they overlook the potential for the social network to sell the metadata our input yields to advertisers.
That’s not an argument against digital engagement. But it is a reason to consider carefully the best channel for different types of interaction.
Inside PR 517 has been posted – and it covers a lot of ground.
On Inside PR 517, we talk about the Sarah Jeong controversy that erupted last week. If you aren’t familiar with this, I have included links to key articles that will provide the background in the Linkworthy section below. Here’s a quick recap. Last week, the New York Times announced that Sarah Jeong would be leaving the Verge to join the NY Times as lead writer on technology. And then a Twitter storm erupted as attention was drawn to tweets authored by Jeong that were derogatory of white people. The Times quickly reaffirmed its decision, pointing to the context in which Jeong wrote those tweets and indicating that they would not be acceptable in future now that she has joined the Times. Coming in the wake of the James Gunn and Les Moonves controversies, could we indeed be seeing the a restoration of the balance between nuance and absolutism? As Martin asks, could we be back to a time in which we can admit to a mistake, own it, show contrition, and move on? We can only hope so.
Also, in this episode, we know that many listeners to this podcast speak about their area of practice to conferences and at professional development events. If you do this even once a year, you’ll be interested in a post that Gini Dietrich wrote on the SpinSucks blog, Six ways to generate leads from a speaking engagement. Martin and I both thought it offered practical advice that we would put to work – and we asked Gini to discuss it with us.
Finally, a couple #IPRMustKnows, things worth noting and acting upon:
WordPress is one more step closer to the full rollout of Project Gutenberg. This week, WordPress pushed out a maintenance update that included a prompt to all users to turn on the Gutenberg update. Gini did this for SpinSucks – and she raves about how great the new experience is. This may be the final release before WordPress 5.0 is pushed out to all users. And with WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg 5.0 will be turned on by default for all users. So, if you publish on WordPress and you haven’t turned on Gutenberg yet, now is your time to try it out.
Feedly is, in Joe’s opinion, the best newsreader available for people who want to curate their online information sources via RSS feeds. When Google closed down Google Reader, a substantial part of the Reader community migrated their reading lists to Feedly. That was a time of rocket ship growth for Feedly, which enabled users to access, read and curate their news sources on every device – desktop, tablet and mobile phone. Now the good folks at Feedly have initiated a major rewrite of the Feedly iOS app – and they have invited their community of users to test the app as it is being developed and provide their feedback. The Feedly team have set up a dedicated Slack Workspace for the beta phase, to announce the new features introduced or refined with each week’s release and asking for feedback on these features. And to enable participants in the beta to see that their input is being incorporated in the development team’s work, they’ve gone a step further, setting up a Trello workspace and posting links to it so that the participant community can see the state of work. The Beta program is just about to hit its midpoint. But new users still are joining. So, if you use Feedly and want to make it better, you too can still sign up to participate in the beta. Kudos to Feedly for building their app the right way, co-creating with their community will yield a much better product that meets both mainstream and specialized needs.
Inside PR 515: Good Judgment and an Abandonment of Principles? We look at three fraught issues that broke just before recording: the firing of James Gunn from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise; the bad timing of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s publishing a letter opposing gunshot-detecting technology in Toronto just hours before a mass shooting in the city; and Burberry being called out for its policy of destroying old stock.
On this week’s episode of the Inside PR podcast: The biggest change to WordPress in ten years; the Guardian decides good enough video really is good enough; and a teachable moment in marketing ethics. It’s about disclosure, stupid!
WordPress 5 with Gutenberg
WordPress users have something big to look forward to – the release of WordPress 5. WordPress published an updateforecasting that WordPress 5 will be released as early as August. Why is WordPress 5 such a big deal? Because it will incorporate the new Gutenberg editing system.
Gutenberg will be the first significant change in WordPress’ core editing dashboard in ten years. And when it is introduced, WordPress users will have, for the first time, a true WYSIWYG interface that will enable them to create, format and arrange their content as they create it, seeing the results as they make the changes. As long time WordPress users, this is something that we have been looking forward to. August can’t come soon enough.
Sometime good enough video is good enough
We know that video is the most engaging of social objects. But we also know that it takes a lot of work to produce highly polished “professional-looking” videos. Digiday reports that The Guardian has adjusted their approachto video on Instagram. They concluded that the uptake of their videos does not justify the high cost of production of highly polished videos. On the other hand, they also noticed that less polished videos were being viewed as often as higher quality, higher cost of production videos. So, from now on, the Guardian is producing less polished videos such as 12 to 15 screen “explainers.”
We think there is a lesson here for all of us – sometimes it makes sense to aim for “good enough” to achieve your objectives. If you can achieve your objective at lower cost, doesn’t it just make sense to do this?
If you fail to disclose, this could be you
A few weeks ago we talked about the less-than-transparent disclosure made by matte story distributors and publishers. This week, Buzzfeed threw daylight on another lapse in disclosure. They highlighted the behaviour of one marketing company that routinely places bylined articles in online news outlets such as Forbes and Entrepreneur without disclosing that references to their clients within the articles are in fact references to clients of the marketing firm.
Nobody is served well by this practice. Not the client. Not the publisher. And not the marketing firm. Just one more reminder to us all that trust is built over time, but can be lost with a single action. Let’s remember, when in doubt, disclose.