Homeland-Sock-Puppets

Momentum Shift: The Fake News Problem and Who Is Working to Fix it

(headline image credit: Homeland “Sock Puppets”)

Mounting criticism for enabling the spread of fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign has pressured Google, Twitter and Facebook and others to get involved in dispelling and discrediting fake stories.

An April 6 Facebook blog outlined three approaches the platform would use to halt the spread of misinformation and false news:

  • disrupting economic incentives because most false news is financially motivated;
  • building new products to curb the spread of false news; and
  • helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.

Like the last bullet point, Google is also tapping into its user base to identify and flag fake news stories. Wired reports, “the company will roll out an expanded feedback form for reporting inappropriate snippets, search results, and autocomplete suggestions.” Additionally, the company has made tweaks to its algorithm to remove or hide blatantly fake stories from appearing at the top if its searches. On some of the more popular conspiracy theories, like 9/11 being an inside job, the platform includes snippets from credible sources debasing some of the wilder claims.

The Guardian reports that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will create a new community combining journalists with volunteer contributors to combat the fake news problem. The crowdfunded platform, titled Wikitribune, was inspired by Kelly Anne Conway’s remarks about ‘alternative facts’ and will initially be UK-centric.

Twitter is well known for enabling legions of bots to increase the spread and reach of fake news stories, and is used by foreign actors including Russia and ISIS to do the same. Twitter is also used by the President of the United States to share misinformation and doublespeak in an effort to confuse people or shift media attention from the misdeeds of his administration. The platform has been known to ban extremists like Charles Johnson that spread hateful content.

Foreign Threat

The most intentional and effective disinformation threat comes from foreign governments like Russia, a country with a tight grip over its own broadcast media and a history of using propaganda for dubious means.

The New York Times reports that Russia hosts massive buildings full of government-funded internet trolls that exist solely to sow confusion in democratic societies. Articles from reputable media sources have demonstrated Russia’s strategy to use soft power to influence its political ambitions in regions including: the Baltic states, the Balkans, Britain, Ukraine, The United States, The Netherlands, Sweden, France, Germany and recently fears have grown of interference in Mexico.

Western democracies have been noticeably slow to identify the source of these problems, and most efforts have been anemic. Addressing fake news is challenging in that it comes from multiple sources and for different reasons. Organizations including EU Mythbusters, EU East Stratcom Task Force, NATO Stratcom, and stopfake.org exist to challenge politically-funded fake news organizations directly, but often tackle the exciting headlines and sophisticated efforts of their adversaries with a dull, academic approach. The existing network of fake news capabilities is defeating by comparison.

Cue the sad trombone.

The Fake News Business

Hostile foreign governments are not the only curators of fake content. Enterprising capitalists from every region of the world and every segment of the political spectrum have learned they can drive users to their websites with salacious, hyperbolic and fanatical (mostly political) headlines and content. Reputable media organizations uncovered how fake news creators were able to use social platforms to spread fictional content to rile up a base of gullible web users, and social media accounts offered the perfect medium to spread these stories. These visits lead to clicks on advertisements leading to a monetary incentive to create more fake news.

Examples:

Profile of fake news creator:
how a fake news creator makes money

Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: ‘This Is All About Income’:

a fake news sausage factory

This is how Facebook’s fake-news writers make money:

how Facebook fake news users make money

How to Stop the Spread of Fake News

A more concerted effort between Western businesses, governments and academics will strengthen the defense and help nullify the negative effects of misinformation campaigns, but a more proactive effort is needed to keep bad actors from continuing to dilute faith in democracy through propaganda and disinformation.

Sadly, with its current administration lacking all credibility due to countless examples of Russian interference and blatant lies emanating from the executive office, the United States government is not in a position to take a leadership role in this effort. But that doesn’t mean its citizens cannot be informed, and I strongly encourage everyone to explore this topic (using credible sources, of course).

I’ll end this blog with 10 tips Facebook offered to help its users identify fake news in their feeds. This list can be applicable to most media sources.

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
  3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
  9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

Source: facebook.com

For more in-depth guidelines visit this piece from Elia Powers, PHD.

OPB membership stickers

Communication Professionals Need to Support Journalism in 2017

Earlier this week AM:PM PR cut a check to support a small newspaper in Eastern Oregon unfairly threatened with an expensive lawsuit from a governmental agency seeking to block its reporting.

While the lawsuit was dropped on Tuesday (after Gov. Kate Brown interceded) the story reminds us that good journalism is under constant pressure from many different threats. In addition to lawsuits, journalists and related media professionals face crises spurred by intended slurs like “fake news” from our commander-in-chief, reduced subscribers, low industry wages and questionable business practices leading to reduced newsrooms (among others).

It’s clear our friends working in the media could use some vocal allies, so the following is a list of suggestions to kickstart the creative process for other communication professionals looking to support journalism and the terrific professionals working in the field:

  1. If your client wants to promote a news story that isn’t news, push back. As trained professionals and consummate media consumers, communication professionals know what information is required to create a story. Media relations professionals and publicists should feel emboldened to educate clients when they try to push an idea that will only clutter inboxes or annoy our reporter friends.
  2. Don’t blast out a press release to 100 irrelevant reporters. When pitching a story idea, always make an effort to research and identify reporters that are directly applicable to the story, and reach out to them individually with short, easy-to-read emails. Buckshot press release blasts are annoying to those that receive them erroneously and will damage your credibility if you take a willy nilly approach. (And please, if you send information to more than one reporter at a time, please use the BCC feature in your email platform.)
  3. Don’t harass reporters. If you wrote a compelling pitch and press release and reached out to the right reporter you should hear back from them if they are interested. If you don’t hear back, maybe they aren’t interested? Exercise emotional intelligence when following up.
  4. Spend money to subscribe to multiple media outlets. Between AM:PM PR and my home media interests I currently subscribe to: Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Eugene Register-Guard, The Portland Business Journal, Salem Statesman Journal, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Funemployment Radio and RollingStone. If we want free, independent journalism we need to get back into the habit of paying for it.
  5. Disseminate real news. Follow your favorite journalists on social media platforms. Share their work, comment on their stories, make your proverbial Uncle Bob read those stories, too. In some newsrooms reporter’s performance reviews are tied to story impressions and other social media related-metrics, so put your thumb on the scale for journalism.
  6. Challenge Uncle Bob. One of the best things going for the anti-media crowd (sharing actual fake news from Brietbart, Infowars, NaturalNews, etc.) is that people who actively identify the fakery are so burnt out on the b.s. that they either ignore these connections or unfollow them altogether. Perhaps instead, demonstrate what real journalism looks like or occasionally and subtly offer tools for spotting fake news (like this guide for 5th graders from Vox).

These are just a few simple ideas – we’d love to hear your thoughts via Facebook or Twitter. #supportjournalism

Postcard from space

Crowdfunding Crises Offer Communication Case Studies

Earlier this fall I read a news story about a Scotsman who raised money on a crowdfunding platform for a project that would purportedly send the world’s first postcards from space.

The project was in the news, not because the venture promised to strap a couple cameras to a weather balloon and take photos from twenty miles into the earth’s atmosphere, but because it failed to deliver on its basic promise. Angry customers formed an online revolt that led a newspaper reporter to take notice.

I don’t know if this SpaceCard was simply part of a clever self-funded publicity ploy to get the postcard app ByPost into the news, but the online reaction does offer another intriguing case study for my grad school terminal project.

Anatomy of a Typical Crisis.
My terminal project will explore crisis communication responses to crowdfunding crises. My interest was initially piqued last year after a company contacted AM:PM PR for crisis communication messaging help. They had created a great product funded through Kickstarter but were over a year behind schedule delivering the product. Additionally, the company was struggling to communicate its challenges to its backers and needed to open new sales channels to fund operations while navigating manufacturing conundrums. The appearance of the product for sale online before most backers received theirs threatened to create a firestorm of angry comments on review sites, which could have ballooned into news stories and increased undesirable attention. The situation was blunted with our help, and by honest and clear communication. No media picked up the story, and as of last check, the company is still quietly working away to get its product to its initial backers while concurrently offering its product for sale through a variety of channels.

Apology Videos.
The following apology video is for a project from Canada called the “Peachy Printer.” It raised $50,000+ on IndieGogo and another $650,000 on Kickstarter. Backers were supposed to get their printers in 2014, this apology video is from Oct. 2, 2014.

On October 23, 2016 the project creator posted updates at IndieGogo and Kickstarter to share news of police investigations after an investor was accused of using funds to build a house.

Since we helped that unnamed organization stave off a consumer revolt last December, I have been collecting stories like the “Peachy Printer” – and about other companies facing similar challenges. There are tons – from Seattle to Portland to San Francisco to Scotland and beyond. The challenges faced by these crowdsourced campaigns are similar to those faced by many entrepreneurial endeavors, and I intend to contribute to a growing body of research with my project.

Scholarly Research.
I’ve already done a fair amount of due diligence exploring existing scholarly research that may apply and form a foundation for my efforts. There are entire fields of study that may be relevant including crisis communication, issues management and operations management-related studies. One researcher whose work I’ve enjoyed is Timothy Coombs. His research offers insights that may be applicable to crowdfunded campaigns, including the Situational Crisis Communication Theory. Part of the theory suggests that companies that are new or without a track record will receive more flexibility in the court of public opinion for their fledgling efforts to meet customer demand and expectations. The key component is clear communication, yet most crowdfunded campaigns (and startups) I’ve observed are run by passionate and proud individuals that aren’t quick to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

Case Studies.
The Coolest Cooler is another interesting case study. The company created a cooler that includes a blender, Bluetooth stereo, USB charger and corkscrew in addition to other amenities. The company ran into trouble when it experienced manufacturing delays and then had to start selling its product through online retailers before all backers received their cooler. This led to negative commentary on review sites that de-evolved further into a crisis of communication when media began running with the story. My research will help to come up with guidance other businesses may follow to avoid experiencing the same painful dilemma.

Other similar crowd-funded products facing similar crises include a talking robot called Jibo that’s two-years behind its delivery schedule. The Glowforge printer, which broke customer’s hearts again this past week when the company admitted it wouldn’t get product out for the holidays, is now on track to deliver two years behind schedule.

Opportunities.
These crowd-funded projects are fascinating to study because they provide an opportunity to observe consumer reaction to business decisions in real time. You can see what the company did (or didn’t do) to communicate clearly, and review and gauge consumer reaction. The information will help to inform future best practices for crowdfunded projects, entrepreneurs and traditional startups.

 

Why is everyone talking about Snapchat?

Video Pro Secret - Sound Quality

Video Pro Secret #2: Sound quality is even more important than video quality

GUEST POST

2nd Installment By Jay Carter, Beyond Measure Media

This post is borrowed from BeyondMeasureMedia.com

Last time, we explored why the story your video tells is so important, and how a great video will always pass the “I Should Certainly Hope So” test.

Today, we reveal the Secret #2: Sound quality. While video quality can go a long way toward telling a clear and compelling video story, I think sound quality is even more important.

Bad Video Happens

Most (honest) professional videographers have a war story or two.  Memories of a time they really blew it behind the camera, especially at the beginning of their career.

Hey, stuff happens – out-of-focus interviews, a bright-blue shot of what is supposed to be a white wall, an accidental jerk of the camera away from the action.

But even in the face of those kinds of video mistakes, there are usually ways of correcting or covering those flaws and recovering what could still turn out to be a decent video.

But sound? You really can’t screw that up.

Mess up on the sound, and your video is most likely dead in the water.

Here’s a good example:

Watch (and listen) to the two short interview clips below.

Clip #1:  Bad Sound Quality

 

The sound you’re hearing in this first clip above came from the onboard mic that was attached to the camera.

It sounds like the subject is talking into a microphone that was located across the room, because that’s exactly what was happening.

The too-lengthy distance between the person on camera and the microphone is the biggest reason why many videos recorded on smart phones often appear less than professional.

Listening to a person who sounds far away makes the viewer feel far away. It causes their attention to wane.  Rather than taking the viewer on a journey, bad sound reinforces that they’re just watching a video – a video that is annoyingly hard to hear and understand.

Now compare that to clip number two below.

Clip #2:  Good Sound Quality

 

In this second clip the audio is recorded from a lavaliere microphone clipped to the subject’s collar.

This simple improvement in sound quality changes everything.

Despite the fact that this is a poorly-lit shot, despite the fact that there is no depth to the shot, it’s still (mostly) usable in a video, particularly if we’re only using a quick clip of the interview.

Professional-Sounding Video

For the interviews we shoot – and even for b-roll footage of people doing things – we use a wireless Sennheiser lavaliere microphone to pick up deep, rich audio.

There are even lav mics available these days that can attach to your smart phone, delivering a richer and more professional sound quality than what most smart phone video cameras can deliver by themselves.

But isn’t just about making your video “sound professional.”  It’s deeper than that.

Sound quality can make a viewer pay closer attention to the on-camera speaker.  It can make the entire experience sound (and thus, feel) more intimate.

More than fancy lighting, more than stunning panoramic images, more than pretty much anything else, a rich quality sound can pull a viewer into the story being told on a screen.

In the next post, we’ll uncover our third secret for creating powerful videos – a secret tool I personally use on nearly every project I produce to “dial up” the emotional impact of an interview.

Also, if you’re in the Portland, Oregon area, stay tuned for Part 2 of “Pro Secrets for Making Great Videos” in November.

Beyond Measure MediaJay Carter is a former Texas TV news anchor and reporter, with numerous awards from the Associated Press and the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling. He has worked as a radio news anchor and voiceover talent. He works with his wife and business partner, Michele Kim Carter, at Beyond Measure Media creating video stories and testimonials for businesses and nonprofits.

A note from AM:PM PR

According to Google, in 2016, more video content will be uploaded in 30 days than all three major U.S. T.V. networks combined have created in 30 years and a Cisco forecast report predicts online video will be responsible for 80% of internet traffic by 2019.

Video is the quickest way to influence an audience and the most effective tool for telling complicated stories. In an age with so much content coming coming at us, video can also be the easiest tool for learning new things.

We see video as a powerful communications tool and regularly recommend it to clients.

A decade ago, businesses struggled to understand social networking and some doubted its value or predicted it a fad and fell behind their competition. Today, video is the tool every organization should include in their marketing plans.

Here’s a great source for on using video for business: By 2019, Video Marketing Will Be Everything. You’ve Got to Get in on the Trend — Now.

Pro videos

Does Your Video Pass the “I Should Certainly Hope So” Test?

GUEST POST

By Jay Carter, Beyond Measure Media

This post is borrowed from BeyondMeasureMedia.com

I have to admit, I was a little nervous when the team at AM:PM PR asked us to come into their office to present our “pro secrets for making powerful videos.”

As a video production professional, the truth is, I was afraid to share with a large group of people just how simple creating powerful videos can be.

As a buddy of mine likes to say, “this ain’t rocket surgery.”

There is, of course, a certain level of knowledge that is required to capture “pro-level” images. But I think even the most clumsy, inexperienced videographers will have a huge edge if they’re an innately good storyteller.

Strip away all the fancy bells and whistles of video production, and what you’re really left with is a deceptively simple form of communication with an extraordinary ability to connect people with the largest numbers of other, like-minded people.

Video Moves Mountains

Video is, hands-down, the most powerful form of leverage I have ever seen when it comes to marketing.  It can move mountains.

It can motivate large numbers of viewers to take action.  Seeing those kinds of results is the part of my job I love most.

We were recently invited by AM:PM Public Relations in Portland, Oregon to present some ideas in their regular series of “Speakeasy” events.

Afterward, they asked me to share a series of blog posts re-capping the list we shared in part 1 of our two-part discussion.

Here now, is secret number one.

Secret #1: Story is Everything

Now, hang with me here.  You might think this “pro secret” is a bit obvious.

So let’s imagine you’re about to produce your very first video about your business or organization.

What would be in the video?

What would you say to the camera?

What facts or elements would make it into the video, and what would be left on the cutting room floor?

Most first-time video makers tend to emphasize “features” over story.  That is, they feel their video must be a comprehensive list of all the features and services of their business.  And that could be a bad idea.

Story Beats Statistics

Why?  Because story beats statistics.

Telling a story will engage an audience much more effectively than if you were to present a list of your company or organization’s features or services.

There’s an undeniable correlation between the quality of the story told in your video and how effective it will be in getting the result you want.

So let’s really dig into what this means:  If we deconstruct the most powerful videos that are out there, they all seem to pass one basic test: It’s what I call the “I-Should-Certainly-Hope-So” Test.

Specifically, if someone who is watching your video is able to respond to what is being said in the video with, “Well, I should certainly hope so!,” then the video just might be a ‘fail.’

This is one of the biggest mistakes businesses make when creating their first video.

Watch this quick video to see how I explained the “I-Should-Certainly-Hope-So” test to the Speakeasy guests at AM:PM.

In my next post, I’ll share Pro Secret #2:  Forget what camera you’re using; there’s a whole other – and often forgotten – technical part of your video that can make or break it.

Also, if you’re in the Portland, Oregon area, stay tuned for Part 2 of “Pro Secrets for Making Great Videos” in November.

Beyond Measure MediaJay Carter is a former Texas TV news anchor and reporter, with numerous awards from the Associated Press and the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling. He has worked as a radio news anchor and voiceover talent. He works with his wife and business partner, Michele Kim Carter, at Beyond Measure Media creating video stories and testimonials for businesses and nonprofits.

Michele Kim Carter and Jay Carter on Great Day Houston

August Speakeasy: Pro Secrets for Making Powerful Videos

Part 1 of our 2 part series of video secrets from the pros

Having just one video about your business or organization isn’t enough any more. Now you need a series.

At our next Speakeasy event, hear from the team at Beyond Measure Media.  Jay and Michele
Next Speakeasy - Pro Secrets for Great Videos Part 2
Carter are award-winning video producers that specialize in telling documentary-style “stories from the heart” for businesses and nonprofits.

Drawing from years of experience in front of and behind the camera, they share:  

  • The types of videos every organization needs right now, and why.
  • The most common mistakes businesses make when creating their first video(s), and how to avoid them.
  • How to turn a mundane video interview into a magic moment that viewers won’t forget.
  • The one production element that is even more important than video quality.
  • Creative ways to boost your organization’s video output, including how to turn your entire roster of employees into lean, mean, powerful video production and idea machines.

All across the web and social media, your future customers and raving fans are out there — waiting to see, hear and connect with your brand and your mission.  A series of clear, carefully crafted videos is the most powerful way to tell your story, build loyalty and grow your tribe.

Join us October 5th for Part 2 of Pro Secrets for Making Powerful Videos.


About Beyond Measure Media & Michele Kim Carter and Jay Carter

Michele Kim Carter has worked on documentary films, most recently co-directing Southern Fried Fencing, now available on Amazon.  She was local producer for Beer Is Cheaper Than Therapy, which was broadcast on TV networks around the world.  She produced TV newscasts in Texas, and won the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling.

Jay Carter is a former Texas TV news anchor and reporter, with numerous awards from the Associated Press and the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast storytelling. He has worked as a radio news anchor and voiceover talent. He also co-directed the feature-length documentary Southern Fried Fencing with Michele.

At Beyond Measure Media, Jay shoots and edits video, and helps craft the overall tone and narrative flow of video productions. Michele produces, handles logistics, conducts interviews and helps clients tell stories that resonate.

trump entrance

Is Trump’s communication team unethical, incompetent or clever?

(originally drafted 7/19/16)

As I watched the furor over Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech Tuesday, I found myself pondering how I’d respond as a communication professional, were I employed by the Trump campaign.

It’s a complicated scenario to imagine because there’s a thoughtful crisis communication-oriented response, and there’s an opportunistic publicity-oriented response. Both responses serve a valuable communication purpose pending context, but I feel they often offer diverging paths for a communication practitioner to follow, and I’ll argue below that one response may be considered less ethical in this situation.

Crisis Communication.
This path recognizes that allegations of plagiarism represent a serious threat to the integrity of the accused, and the ensuing strategy seeks to minimize reputational damage and restore trust. A proper response may be to issue a statement acknowledging the misstep and earnestly suggest that the internal communication team is examining the process that may have enabled such a gross error. It would acknowledge the wrongdoing and graciously applaud Michelle Obama’s thoughtful, shared vision of family and work ethic. The media attention may continue to be harsh for awhile, and additional steps may be required, but the act would also maintain the presumed credibility of the Trump campaign.

While this may be the tactic to restore trust with the media, and other intellectual stakeholders, it’s apparent that Trump’s most important stakeholders are the people that will vote for him. His communication team must also recognize that these stakeholders will perceive plagiarism as a lesser offense than capitulating to a mistake, and may punish any attempt to mention an Obama in a positive light.

Publicity.
It’s also possible that Trump’s communication team perceived this misstep as another opportunity to generate free publicity from the media. We know this is one of Trump’s go-to communication strategies because a story from The New York Times earlier this year highlighted how he was able to outpace his competitors by generating over $2 billion worth of free media coverage during his party’s presidential primary.

trump statementBolstering the supposition that their team prioritized the publicity path (versus acknowledging the plagiarism accusations), they issued the statement on the left when the controversy first started.

The statement contradicts an interview where Melania told Today host Matt Lauer that she wrote most of the speech herself. Does this indiscretion even register among Trump’s key supporters? Probably not. The statement also does nothing to address Melania’s serious ethical failing – so it doesn’t represent a crisis communication response. It does manifest many more questions, representing a publicity-oriented response – and the media was busy. In a bizarre Orwellian twist, the Trump campaign chairman stated that the calls of plagiarism are the fault of Hillary Clinton. Chris Christie chimed in to point out 93% of the speech WASN’T plagiarized. Most everyone in the country sighed with exasperation from the absurdity of it all.

Is the campaign’s communication strategy ethical?
After observing the Trump campaign for nearly a year, it’s become apparent that negative media coverage does nothing to damage the Trump brand among its ardent supporters, and if anything, serves a purpose – to keep the media regurgitating the Trump brand name and messaging.

The initial publicity-focused communication response from the Trump campaign team represents either an unethical or an irresponsible tactic from the perspective of this communication professional. In my view, their campaign actively prioritizes controversy to generate more news coverage, versus prioritizing the act of telling the truth or offering anything of substance. This strategy has clearly created a dangerous and hyperbolic precedent. History has demonstrated that using crazy language and manipulating the media in such a manner leads to extreme consequences as time wears on. Americans should make themselves familiar with the notion that these campaign communications are strategically manipulative, versus dismissing the outrageousness of it all at face value.

Conclusion.
My instinct is to consider the accusation of plagiarism as a crisis communication threat and to address it accordingly. However, Trump’s reinforced brand image is that of hyperbole, puffery and gross exaggeration. Therefore, this misstep doesn’t threaten his brand at all, and if anything, is a shot in the arm to his publicity efforts.

* * *

Earlier Wednesday Trump’s team released a statement throwing his official biographer under the bus, and to my surprise, praising Michelle Obama in the process. Rather than the initial publicity-generating statement from Tuesday, Wednesday’s communication represents a crisis-communication response. Essentially versus choosing one of two paths, as I suggest, team Trump chose both. This may be part of their strategy, or it may suggest that they don’t have an effective communication plan for their campaign and were trying to patch over earlier mistakes.

Oregon Militia Dicks

Oregon Militia PR Tactics and Blunders – AM:PM PR’s Mike Phillips in The Guardian


If you want to be quoted, say something colorful.

(Reposted from The Guardian – January 13, 2016)

 

The Oregon militia’s bizarre PR tactics – from dildos to Facebook videos

Militiamen have attracted media coverage while occupying the Malheur wildlife refuge, but their disjointed social media messages have ‘created a big mess’

by Sam Levin

oregon militia guardian

The armed militiamen occupying a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon have increasingly turned to a different weapon in their fight: social media.

Militia leader Ammon Bundy and his rightwing followers, who have been stationed at the headquarters of the Malheur national wildlife refuge since 2 January, have used Facebook, YouTube and live-stream videos to get their message out directly to the public and to call on anti-government activists to support their cause.

In the process, they’ve attracted significant media coverage from across the globe while also holding daily press briefings at the entrance to the refuge that draw huge crowds of hungry reporters each morning.

But their public relations strategy has repeatedly suffered from bizarre self-aggrandizing videos that rogue militiamen continue to post to their followers. The steady feed of rambling selfie videos have prompted widespread mockery and scorn and in some cases have clearly further distracted from the plight of Harney County ranchers whom the militia claim to be backing.

Most recently, militiaman Jon Ritzheimer, the prominent anti-Islam activist from Arizona, posted a Facebook video of himself opening hate mail sent to the refuge, including a box filled with dildos. “It’s really ridiculous. This one was really funny – a bag of dicks,” he said in the video before angrily shoving a bunch of packages off the table. “They just spend all their money on hate, hate, hate, hate!” he shouted.

The episode made the rounds on social media this week and became the subject of many gifs.

And on Tuesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting uncovered a video from an occupier named David Fry from Ohio, who filmed himself using government computers at the compound to create an “Oregon standoff” website.

The videos are the latest in a series of social media messages from numerous members of the Bundy bunch – footage that often captures long-winded and sometimes incoherent speeches that, at the very least, draw further support within rightwing online communities. They may have learned some lessons about how to garner consistent national news coverage from the standoff with the federal government in 2014, which was led by Ammon’s father, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher.

But marketing and communications experts in Oregon who have closely followed the standoff, which has caused a major backlash in the nearby town of Burns, said the militia’s PR tactics were disjointed and chaotic and were only breeding further resentment from the people they purport to be helping.

“If they are trying to get America to pay attention to the grievances they have with federal laws, they are losing that battle,” said Mike Phillips, a public relations specialist with Portland firm AM:PM. “They do not have an effective spokesperson. Having so many people involved and so many people creating their own messaging on their own platforms … they’ve just created a big mess.”

Phillips pointed to Ritzheimer’s video as a clear example of how the militiamen were doing a poor job of drawing attention to complaints about the overreach of the federal government.

“He should not be a spokesperson,” Phillips said. “He’s created a huge distraction … and opened up an avenue for the media to pay attention to that. He’s also opened the door to receive more bags of dicks. It’s just kind of a cluster of craziness.”

At the very least, the use of social media has ramped up support within various conservative militia organizations and so-called “patriot” groups, which may be why more activists continue to flock to the occupation from across the country.

“There’s a significant amount of people in this movement using technologies to communicate with one another. It’s effective for that very small proportion of people,” Phillips said. “It’s probably a good technique to reach out to their core audience.”

The militia’s latest PR move was to announce a meeting in town on Friday, which will be the first time the militiamen leave the compound and formally meet with Burns residents. Given the huge pushback against the occupation from Harney County officials, the meeting is likely to further escalate tensions and draw more media attention to the questionable tactics of the militia.

“If they were going to do this over again, they probably would’ve been better served by building more of a coalition on the ground,” said Ward Hubbell, another public relations specialist based in Portland. “They didn’t really get permission from any stakeholders there to represent their interests.”