The PR BlogMedia & PsychologyMedia RelationsThe Media Blackout: When PR Declines Media Interviews

The Media Blackout: When PR Declines Media Interviews

Why organisations are rethinking their PR strategies.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Let’s dis­cuss the media black­out and its effects.

What com­pels organ­isa­tions to decline media inter­view requests, and what implic­a­tions does this have for the future of invest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ism?

Moreover, how do these tac­tics reflect the chan­ging nature of trust, trans­par­ency, and truth for journ­al­ism in the long term? 

Here we go:

The Media Blackout Tactic

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The Media Blackout Tactic

More and more organ­isa­tions are delib­er­ately avoid­ing any inter­ac­tion with leg­acy news media:

Media Blackout = when an organ­isa­tion inten­tion­ally avoid enga­ging with leg­acy news media, often to con­trol the nar­rat­ive and pro­tect interests. Journalists cri­ti­cise this prac­tice as it obstructs invest­ig­at­ive report­ing and under­mines inform­a­tion transparency.

Media Blackouts are the res­ult of unfair rules of engage­ment in a “Post-Truth” media landscape:

Media Minefield = the “Post-Truth” media land­scape where inter­ac­tions with leg­acy news media often res­ult in delib­er­ate mis­rep­res­ent­a­tion. Organisations nav­ig­ate this ter­rain cau­tiously to avoid dam­aging their repu­ta­tion and pub­lic image.

The Media Analysis

To resolve the situ­ation, we face two main challenges:

  • As organ­isa­tions learn to thrive without leg­acy news media, the PR func­tion must aban­don using the media black­out as a long-term tactic.
  • Legacy news media must acknow­ledge the Media Minefield and return to report­ing the bal­anced truth to the best of their journ­al­ist­ic abilities.

However, as a PR pro­fes­sion­al with 18+ years of exper­i­ence, I believe we will fall short on both these challenges.

Legacy news media will con­tin­ue to fall apart — where the erosion of trust from organ­isa­tions will be one of many con­trib­ut­ing factors. Organisations will likely opt for “Post-Truth” strategies, lead­ing to organ­isa­tion­al cor­ro­sion from the inside out.

Post-truth is a soci­et­al phe­nomen­on, influ­enced by the expect­a­tion that hon­esty is the default pos­i­tion, and the pub­lic tol­er­ance of inac­cur­ate and undefen­ded alleg­a­tions in polit­ics.”
Source: Nature 1Higgins, K. (2016). Post-truth: a guide for the per­plexed. Nature, 540, 9 – 9. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​3​8​/​5​4​0​0​09a

Instead, new “soci­et­al pil­lars” must be born out of the rubble: a new form of inde­pend­ent news media based on trust (not clicks or ideo­logy) and a new form of suc­cess­ful organ­isa­tions based on trans­par­ency (not avoid­ance or exploitation).

Learn more: The Media Blackout: When PR Declines Media Interviews

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Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Media Polarisation

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The Media Polarisation Model

We often hear how the media cli­mate is “polar­ised” — a known and reas­on­ably well-under­stood effect of clas­sic media logic.

It also seems true that social media logic has amp­li­fied the effects of polar­isa­tion by group­ing people into echo cham­bers where con­firm­a­tion bias, con­ver­sion the­ory, and the hos­tile media effect are allowed to roam freely without any checks and balances.

Political elites, par­tis­an media, and social media con­trib­ute to soci­et­al-level polit­ic­al polar­iz­a­tion, lead­ing to mis­per­cep­tions of divi­sion among the elect­or­ate and fuel­ing anim­os­ity and actu­al ideo­lo­gic­al polar­iz­a­tion over time.”
Source: Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 2Wilson, A., Parker, V., & Feinberg, M. (2020). Polarization in the con­tem­por­ary polit­ic­al and media land­scape. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 34, 223 – 228. … Continue read­ing

More deeply, media polar­isa­tion is prob­lem­at­ic because it draws false lines between extremes that aren’t neces­sar­ily per­pen­dic­u­lar. These “false lines” will force oth­er­wise bal­anced media con­sumers to place them­selves between the media-sug­ges­ted extremes.

The Media Polarisation Model - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog - Version 1
The Media Polarisation Model (Version 1). Both extreme pos­i­tions are at the max­im­um dis­tance from the centre of the issue, but that doesn’t mean that the media por­tray­al of “oppos­ing extremes” are per­pen­dic­u­lar to each oth­er. Often, extreme views can be quite sim­il­ar des­pite being described by the media as polar oppos­ites. A “middle ground” between two such extremes can be quite far from the centre of the issue, too.

At the extremes, sheltered by the social safety of a like-minded peer group (i.e. echo cham­ber), it’s pos­sible to dis­reg­ard oppos­ing evid­ence as “attacks” on their pos­i­tion. As the amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is states, any such attacks will only strengthen the pos­i­tion of the extremes.

  • The harder you attack someone verbally, the more you con­vince them of their belief, not yours.

Through media polar­isa­tion, the amp­li­fic­a­tion hypo­thes­is sus­tains a “Post-Truth” Zone at the extremes. If a) the zone is wide enough and b) the extremes are suf­fi­ciently close to each oth­er, the forced “bal­anced” pos­i­tion between them will end up in the “Post-Truth” Zone as well.

Post-truth is a soci­et­al phe­nomen­on, influ­enced by the expect­a­tion that hon­esty is the default pos­i­tion, and the pub­lic tol­er­ance of inac­cur­ate and undefen­ded alleg­a­tions in polit­ics.”
Source: Nature 3Higgins, K. (2016). Post-truth: a guide for the per­plexed. Nature, 540, 9 – 9. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​3​8​/​5​4​0​0​09a

The Media Polarisation Model - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog - Version 2
The Media Polarisation Model (Version 2). Once a peer group with extreme pos­i­tions reach crit­ic­al mass, they’ll be more likely to rein­force their belief when ques­tioned ration­ally. This cre­ates a “Post-Truth” Zone the fur­thest away from the issue’s centre — where even a “bal­anced” pos­i­tion might land.

The forced “bal­anced” pos­i­tion is weak and argu­ably also extreme, there­fore cred­it­ing (not threat­en­ing) all extreme post-truth positions.

Since the forced “bal­anced” pos­i­tion will have a hard time shel­ter­ing any­one from our fear of social isol­a­tion, the spir­al of silence par­tially explains why extremes are so effect­ive in silen­cing the major­ity of oth­er­wise bal­anced media con­sumers. 4Silfwer, J. (2020, June 4). The Spiral of Silence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​p​i​r​a​l​-​o​f​-​s​i​l​e​n​ce/

Learn more: The Media Polarisation Model

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1, 3 Higgins, K. (2016). Post-truth: a guide for the per­plexed. Nature, 540, 9 – 9. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​3​8​/​5​4​0​0​09a
2 Wilson, A., Parker, V., & Feinberg, M. (2020). Polarization in the con­tem­por­ary polit­ic­al and media land­scape. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 34, 223 – 228. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​3​1​2​3​4​/​o​s​f​.​i​o​/​y​q​vzc
4 Silfwer, J. (2020, June 4). The Spiral of Silence. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​p​i​r​a​l​-​o​f​-​s​i​l​e​n​ce/
Shareable:
A Media Blackout is when an organization intentionally avoids engaging with legacy news media to control the narrative and protect interests.
Shareable:
The Media Minefield reflects the "Post-Truth" media landscape where interactions with legacy news media often result in deliberate misrepresentation.
Shareable:
The erosion of trust in legacy news media is one of the factors leading to the rise of Media Blackouts.
Shareable:
Media Blackouts are criticised for obstructing investigative reporting and undermining information transparency.
Shareable:
Why organisations are rethinking their PR strategies.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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