New media

PR Button Blog: Challenging the negative bias

April 14, 2019

I was recently asked to join a panel to discuss how we can use positive PR and marketing to help businesses when times are tough, which got me thinking about the prevalent negative bias we see in news reporting and what we can do to try and balance it.

Here are my take-outs.

We have all heard the phrase “bad news sells”, unfortunately people are more inclined to read about what has gone wrong instead of what has gone right – which means in the Northern Territory we have a big challenge ahead of us.

There’s a saying in newsrooms “if it bleeds it leads”, 90% of the news in the newspaper and on television is negative because that’s what we pay attention to.

Stories that are shocking and negative will have the greatest impact.

US study found that the key topics that people are interested in are war, weather, disaster, money and crime. In the Territory read that as Cops, Crocs and Cyclones.

In uncertain times people turn to the media to keep them better informed, fear and poverty stimulate greater interest in news  - it could be a survival technique, we need to be better informed to survive – or as a way to make sure our own misgivings are not as bad as our neighbours, we are doing alright “in comparison”. (Is this also why viewers like reality TV ? Because it makes their life, home, relationship seem better?) Either way, for businesses in the Territory we are definitely facing a battle to move the discussion from negative to positive.

We have to try and change the story from one of deficit to stories of strength and resilience. We need to stop talking things down – business, home prices, jobs  - and look at what is trending – what are the hot topics and how we can add to the story in a positive light.

For example: if the focus is on youth crime – let’s try and focus on youth success stories, training and initiatives. If people are worried about young people never being able to afford a first home – let’s celebrate those that do and share their success. If businesses are facing tough times, let’s recognise the businesses who are doing clever things, winning awards and helping the community. Let’s try and focus on Territorians who are leading by example.

If we know that the traditional media has a bias towards bad news – we need to try and balance the scales through digital, company websites, social media and direct marketing activities.

And when the chips are down and you have used all of the above – find a crocodile story – it is bound to get you on the front page of the NT News!