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Hard and Soft March 31 2014
Anyone can get into the New York Times if she commits a heinous crime, gets involved in a high-profile sex scandal, or dies in a plane crash, but that’s hard news. Soft news requires a different approach. Soft news is found in the lifestyle, business and arts sections of any newspaper. The definition of soft news is it’s both informative and entertaining. The dissemination of super sexy soft news is the chief function of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Behind every great soft story in the New York Times, you will find a spinmeister.
A spinmeister is a PR professional who takes the essential facts to create a positioning or slant and then crafts this information to create a powerful story pitch that is timely, compelling, relevant, and, in many instances, meaningful. Spinmeisters have been around forever. Edward Bernays, the founding father of Public Relations, said, “In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
It is amazing that Bernays stated this commentary in his landmark treatise Propaganda. The reality of spin and propaganda is the same now as it was in 1928 when Bernays wrote his book. The only thing that has intensified is the manifold increase in the volume of information that has accelerated through self-publishing, citizen journalism, online media, the blogosphere and social media.
Returning to the concept of hard and soft news, it is important to keep in mind that even hard news has soft news components. Consider what happens when a hard news story begins trending and many spin-off stories start playing out across media and social platforms. Take the case of Air Malaysia 370 where speculation has run the gamut to include stories of stolen passports, suicidal pilots, crazed hijackers, terrorist groups, continual false reports of wreckage and mysterious pings vibrating through the Indian Ocean only to be measured by satellites orbiting the earth. Add the mix of mounting tension between the Chinese and Malaysian authorities with a sprinkling of Iranians seeking asylum in Europe and you have an international debacle.
We may never know what happened to the plane. If I were Boeing, the manufacturer who built the plane, I would much prefer an aura of intrigue playing out in the press than speculation about the mechanical and electrical integrity of the plane. The possibility of the plane’s structural failure would mean Boeing could be liable for a lot of money. This is not to suggest that the Boeing PR people have planted a few pitches to help stir the speculative tide and muddy the waters. The message here is to scrutinize everything you read, see, and hear in the media. Whether stories are pitched or planted, there is never a way for the public to know the source behind how news stories really originate. —Patricia Vaccarino
Write for PR for People!
PR for People® is committed to getting the word out about our people and their accomplishments. This is why we launched our magazine PR for People® The Connector. We are communicating our stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In the next issue of PR for People “The Connector,” we will focus on immigrants and coming to America. Do you have a story to tell? Would you like to write for our magazine? Do you have photos to share? Our next deadline for advertising and editorial is May 23, 2014. For more info, contact us email@example.com.