Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Mission Possible: Earning Fair Press Coverage

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mission Possible: Earning Fair Press Coverage

You can't thumb through a newspaper or scroll through a social media feed without being bombarded with often rude, mostly disrespectful and largely inaccurate coverage of what's occurring in Kansas. I even find ill-fated mentions of Kansas and our Governor in places like Esquire Magazine. Yeah, that's a (classless) men's fashion periodical.

Clearly, our public relations needs an upgrade. No offense, friends in PR in the Governor's Office or the state legislature. For what it's worth, I think PR is the dark side of communications. It's gross, but necessary.

I'm going to make a few recommendations to improve the nature of the news that comes from the Capital. 

Limit Press Access


Yeah, I said it. Limit access. When media doesn't give you a fair shake, when they misquote or mislead and don't offer the opportunity to run a correction, deny access. Do not have a one-on-one sit down. Do not give a quote unless it's written down on a press release. Go out of your way to ensure that the biased reporter--and the publication the biased works for-- never gets a scoop. Issuing a press release, send it to a list of reasonable, fair reporters first. Seriously, keep two media lists, and give the fair reporters and publications and your friends the story first-- like two hours in advance. Rinse, cycle, repeat. I'm serious. Every time there's a story available-- every time you have 8,000 reporters calling for a quote about story 'X,' call John Hanna first. Give him an exclusive. A day later trot out the release for everyone else.

You don't have to tell people you're doing that, but you can subtly make it clear that you won't give any advantages to people who aren't going to be fair to you. This accomplishes two things: 1-- news outlets will realize if they want access, they'd better give you a chance to respond and run corrections and 2-- it moves them in your direction. They have no choice at all. If they want to maintain their ability to get scoops, to be a source of information for people who want it (and therefore an advertising draw), they need access to people of influence. Guess who decides who gets access to you? You!

If you write a release about this new plan to limit access, you're going to get beat up in the press. So I'm going to recommend against making a formal announcement, just start doing it. You have three days to respond to records requests, take all three days. Or have some lawyer in Derek Schmidt's office spend the entire 3 days penning a screed about why you don't have to turn over the record. (Just kidding. Don't do that. It's disgusting and Schmidt's office should be pretty ashamed of themselves for doing that when they receive a request.)

Kansas Legislators:

As individuals, you should definitely follow the above advice, too. Give access to those who will work with you. Lose the phone numbers of reporters and news directors who won't give you a fair shake.

Similarly, I do not understand why reporters in the Capital are allowed to run all over the floor of the House and the Senate. The practice allows reporters to ambush legislators before, after, and during debate. This is a great interview technique and a great way to get unscripted (stupid) quotes. 

In many other state legislatures, reporters are placed in the gallery or even behind glass!! In the Kansas House, for example, I suggest forcing media into the west gallery where they can be conveniently seated and corralled by communications staff. This isn't without precedence in other states. Would it enrage the media? Of course, but so what? They aren't your friends, and they're certainly doing you no favors. So stop rewarding them.

Expand People's Access

The beauty of the modern world is that news no longer has to be pressed through a meat grinder and packaged in a sausage casing. You can take information directly to the people. (Thanks, Internet.)

I am proud of Speaker Merrick's office for sending e-newsletters that contain tough language. These are being shared on social media regularly. When the only information you put out is rah-rah, people aren't likely to share that. By rah-rah, I mean something like this "A House majority voted in favor of HB 221, a bill that eliminates regulations for hair dressers." If you're going to bother sending an e-newsletter, give it some context. "Before the House approved HB 221, braiding hair for a free could get a person fined or thrown into jail. Smart legislators said no more by passing HB 221." (Not a real bill.)

Strong language isn't a bad thing. You have a message. So send it! You will receive harsh criticism (see the Dems' reaction to Merrick's latest newsletters), but so what? Some people aren't going to like you no matter what you say. The goal is to rally those who do and persuade those on the fence. 

The Kansas Legislature should work to immediately install cameras and live broadcast things as they happen on the floor. I give some credit to C-Span for some of the major advances in the conservative movement in modern history. The network began broadcasting from the U.S. House in 1979. It started covering both the House and the Senate gavel-to-gavel in 1986. 

The best way to get accurate information to the people is to give people access to news as its happening. Everyone who watches a legislative body in action will interpret the proceedings differently. No one is helped when every ounce of the interpretation comes from the hardcore left liberal members of the press and the libs on Twitter.

The Legislature can also give the people immediate access by publishing in PDF form online the testimony of those testifying in committees. When anyone is invited to testify to a committee, they are asked to submit written testimony. (And the committee likely receives almost ALL of the testimony in electronic form via email, because this is the 21st Century.)

But do you know what someone interested must do to have access to the pre-submitted, written testimony? Legislative staff sends it to the requester via snail mail. THEY PUT IT IN AN ENVELOPE WITH A STAMP. I don't even...

If you give people access to the information as its happens, rather than allowing it to pass through the sausage grinder that is the liberal press, many,  many people will come around to the conservative way of thinking. 

Fire up the cameras and live broadcasting at the same time you move the press to the gallery, and you dodge the public relations issue of removing the press from the legislative floor. 

Don't Feed the Trolls

When you allow the people access, you're going to find Internet trolls. You don't have to feed them. Ignore them. Be a happy warrior. If you have to block some people from your Twitter feed, comment section of your e-newsletter, or your Facebook page, do it. Your newsletter, your Facebook page, your Twitter account, these things belong to you. You wouldn't invite the trolls into your house to be rude to your family, so don't allow them to be rude to your supporters or the people who are truly just looking to be informed.

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