Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just another day in the media world

Last week I wrote about how excited I was about being contacted by NBC Nightly News. They were going to write a story about beach restoration projects and present both sides of the issue -- or so I was told. The story did not turn out that way at all, in fact, it landed on the "Fleecing of America" series.
What to do for my client now??? I work with another PR firm in representing the ASBPA, and we decided to take a two-pronged approach. I would write my contact at NBC directly with my disappointment, and the President of ASBPA would write a more public response to the piece.
The link to the story is here. Scroll to the program titled Beachfront Facelifts.
Following is the letter I sent to the producer I worked with...Here is the link for the official ASBPA response.
Dear NBC Producer (Name left off intentionally):
To say that I am disappointed by the Fleecing of America Story about “Beachfront Facelifts” would be an understatement.
When you contacted me, you did not reveal this story was for the “Fleecing of America” series. You presented the story as a balanced article about both sides of the issue – but that is not what we saw on the news last night. (Even though I've been told the interviews conducted with ASBPA representatives were thorough.) Out of a two-minute, 40-second piece, you dedicated only 24 seconds to the pro-beach restoration point of view.
The piece contained opinionated words and phrases such as “lost cause” and “futile” to describe efforts to restore America’s beaches. You aired Orrin Pilkey’s unsubstantiated phrases, such as “ignorant” and “societal madness,” to describe his radical (and extreme minority) view of beach restoration. You accused contractors and homeowners about caring only for the almighty dollar.
It seems to me, this story offered nothing more than a rehash of prior reporting on this subject, rather than facts and figures that might offer viewers a context in which to frame the issue and decide for themselves.
Allowing only 24 seconds for ASBPA to respond did not offer sufficient airtime for facts that support beach nourishment, such as:
• Beaches offer a good return on the federal investment: Every federal dollar spent on beaches brings in more than $300; every dollar spent on a restored beach brings $4-$5 back to taxpayers at all levels of government.
• A healthy beach protects the #1 U.S. industry … tourism. If U.S. beaches aren’t maintained, visitors (and the jobs they bring) will go elsewhere.
• A wide beach provides protection for homes, habitat and infrastructure. Money spent to maintain beaches should significantly reduce the federal money necessary to help communities recover after most coastal storms.
• 50% of our population lives within 50 miles of the coast. That’s where people want to be and that’s where the people’s money needs to be invested.
• Beaches are part of a larger and interdependent coastal environment. Loss of a sandy beach has a ripple effect through the entire coastal ecosystem.
• Coastal management is a crucial part of coastal commerce:
    o The navigation that brings in goods.
    o The recreation that brings in visitors.
    o The habitation that makes communities thrive.
• Beaches attract twice as many visitors as our national parks, yet they receive a fraction of the federal funding spent annually on those parks.
There’s one more point I’d like to make: In the story about the flooding in Fargo, ND, which aired just before the beach story, your correspondent interviewed a woman from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who described how a diversion canal would help reduce flooding in that area in the future. The correspondent then said funding is needed to fix the problem and install the diversion canal.
But where do you think that funding will come from? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funded by the U.S. government -- by tax dollars. How is protecting riverfront residents from these annual floods viewed with sympathy while protecting beachfront residents from exceptional (and certainly not annual) storm erosion deemed to be "fleecing"?
The Corps is also the agency responsible for carrying out the majority of federal beach nourishment projects to create wider beaches, which serve as coastal levees – a better barrier against coastal flooding.
I am sincerely disappointed in the way this story was handled.
Thank you for your time.
Tina Haisman
ASBPA Media Relations

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Workin' in the Media Biz

I had the distinct pleasure of receiving an email and call from a producer with NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. How exciting for this Fort Myers, Florida-based girl!

The call was about my client, The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). Nightly News is looking to do a story about the pros and cons of shoreline protection. They did the story many years ago, and are looking to revisit it again.

Shoreline protection is a highly debated topic in the coastal world. The engineers and scientists involved with ASBPA are very proactive concerning protecting America's shorelines, but there are scientists who are against it. I won't go into all of the details here, but you can visit the ASBPA website if you want to learn more.

When I received the email, I immediately began lining up the right people for NBC to talk to -- they were all gathered in Washington, D.C., for a Coastal Summit, so it was easy! While I was working on that, the producer follwed up his email with a call, and I had the pleasure of speaking to him and getting a better idea of what the story was going to be about. After our talk, I finished arranging the people and places for the interviews and emailed him the details.

Although I wasn't in Washington to meet the reporter and oversee the interviews, my cleint, Kate Gooderham, APR, CPRC, was. She and her husband, Ken, are co-executive directors of the ASBPA. Kate and Ken said the interviews went great!

Afterward, I was surprised to recieve thanks from the producer and reporter for helping them get the interviews they needed for the story. It was as if they were truly grateful. It just surprised me, because these are big-time producers and reporters -- they are used to dealing with big-time PR people. I'm just an independent consultant.

Throughout this process, I just thought I was doing my job. How exciting to receive that gratitude! Kate said the reporter even complimented us on the ASBPA website, which is very exciting! We've worked hard to make it a great source of information about the coast!

The other exciting thing about this turn of events is that the ASBPA has had a formal media relations program in place for about a year and a half now. Our program does not target the big news outlets. We target weekly coastal newspapers with the hopes that the bigger outlets will pick up on it -- and it has been working!

It feels so fantastic to see hard work pay off! It just makes you want to keep on going! Well, it sounds like the story will air next Thursday. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.