To Revamp Your Media Strategy, Focus On The Whole System

Published on: June 10, 2019

For a company whose product is so beneficial and innovative, Tesla can’t seem to catch a break. From cars catching fire, to autopilot crashes, to lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit, the company is struggling to keep up with crises and it is having a dramatic impact on the company’s bottom line

In this case, it’s probable that the Tesla itself needs holistic change beyond just how it analyzes and responds to crises, but analysis of the company’s problems and response structure are certainly a start. When companies and firms think of media analysis and subsequent media outreach, there’s often an inclination to pay attention to the issue at hand and nothing more. While the immediate-term issue may be successfully navigated, there are always other factors involved which get ignored by these processes. The result is that media relations staff frequently find themselves jumping from fire to fire in a reactive posture almost always in the disadvantageous position of having to play catch up. 

These common methods of analysis and outreach address the surface of a problem but not the full system; it’s tantamount to addressing your debt by balancing your checkbook one time and not changing the underlying habits that caused the problem. Every issue a company faces is merely a component of a larger system; nothing takes place in a vacuum, so why would analyses of the issues and responses to them be any different?

When conducting media analysis and outreach, seeing the forest through the trees – addressing a full system instead of just its components – yields immense benefits in the form of lasting solutions. Rather than treating issues in a linear “if, then” sequence, addressing them in relation to one another provides for more effective solutions. Crises are never fully beaten, but rather lie dormant until the next one happens, so it’s crucial that they be included in planning for future issues that a company encounters. 

It may seem counterintuitive to bring up problems from a company’s past, but it’s important to remember that stories often, if not always, include historical context anyway, often with editorial undertones. This type of approach to issues gives a company more control over the ensuing narratives while also making sure that the response to a current problem doesn’t juxtapose with a response to an earlier problem, or worse still, resurface the old problem in a new form. Naturally, all of this planning and analysis can’t be done in the throes of crisis, so it is equally important that this planning and analysis never stops and that every new development is treated as a piece of a larger system. 

Here at CMG, we’ve embraced these principles in our media monitoring and analysis. Our processes for monitoring are designed to ensure that our clients can conduct this sort of analysis with the full picture, or system, in mind. We monitor and alert our clients not just stories, posts, and legislation that fit neatly into the defined scope, but also the outside developments that impact the issues and actors in that scope, all while taking care to ignore undue noise. 

Our analyses also employ this logic, covering the issue at-hand in the context of other issues and developments to paint a full picture. We go far beyond the automated standard of telling clients the sentiment of a story to provide technology-support human analysis of other, more useful, metrics to bolster clients’ strategy. These focus on, among others, the issues themselves, the presence of third parties in reporting, presence of client perspective, overarching narratives, and forward-looking predictions, as well as associated trends. CMG’s analyses serve to help clients engage with the whole system in a more effective manner and ultimately better respond to crises. 

(Note: There is far more to systems thinking than what’s captured here, so I definitely suggest picking up a copy of one of these two books by Peter Senge or Donella Meadows)

~ Will