Are You STILL Trying to Sell Social Media at Work?

Is this you when you try to propose using social media in your workplace?
Is this you when you try to propose using social media in your workplace?

I’ve said this many times, but I have worked in online communications essentially since its inception (19 years and counting).  I have had more battles about why online matters than I could possibly count.  I’ve gone to battle with IT (in the beginning, they wanted to own it),  with Legal (they always want to own everything) and there is always an ongoing tension between communications and marketing folks because they want to own every piece of information that goes out.  At some point, almost EVERYONE at wants to lay claim to a company’s social media presence.

But guess what?  I have been at this for a long time, and I STILL see the need (almost weekly) to convince someone influential at my employer that social media matters.  Yeah.  That.

It’s a good thing that I have had these conversations hundreds of times (and even wrote a post all the way back in 2008 entitled “How to Sell Social Media to Your Dumb Ass Boss“), because I usually know what’s coming when I bring up creating a program for social media that will save time, money and further communications objectives.

Then I get “the look.”  Something like this:


Well, if you find yourself in those same shoes and getting The Look, I have updated my post of seven years ago with some new ideas that just might help you sell what should be innate to even the most conservative organizations:

  1. Define your purpose.  If you are planing to try to sell social media, you are the expert and the person to whom others will look to for information and persuasion.  So have a really good reason why you think that your organization needs to use Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat/YouTube to communicate more effectively.  Know your stuff and be ready to start singing for your supper in an elevator, hallway or meeting.  Know your talking points and your purpose.
  2. Identify your business goals.  You can just sell social to sell social.  You will have a MUCH more likely favorable outcome if you carefully study the goals of your organization and then build you plan and your pitch around them.  For example, if you work for an association whose goal it is to become more influential and gain members, come up with a plan that meets those goals.  And sell it: “We can increase membership by X if we can identify and engage with people who share our interests.  Social media will enable us to find and talk with them, but social interaction is what will bring them in.”
  3. Set specific targets.  The beauty of using social is that since Day 1, we have had a built-in advantage over those who want to use “traditional” media.  So let’s say your communications budget is finite and someone proposes (shudder) a satellite media tour.  That might be great, but how can you measure how many people watched it?  You might know how many stations pulled it down, but then it’s s crapshoot to determine how many people actually were exposed to your messaging.When you attempt to quantify the impact of what you have done, you can say “Well, we have 5,000 new followers on Facebook, 200 on Twitter, an engagement rate well above the industry average and our YouTube videos have been viewed more than 200 times, totaling more than 18,000 minutes.”  That is specific, measurable, and if there is a cost involved, enables you to actually calculate a cost per contact.  Take that, Mrs. “We Really Should Use TV Ads More.”
  4. Determine IF/where social fits in.  Sometimes, social is a slam dunk.  The other day, I was speaking with one of the most respected professors in the profession, Robert French of Auburn University (who has been teaching digital since 1999), and he told me of a large agency whose executives decided that they will not compete for any business that does not have a social media component.  I think that this is smart, simply because if you are only using traditional and have an online audience to, it’s practically corporate malpractice NOT to use it.On the other hand, there actually ARE times in which it simply is not a fit.  I remember once trying to come up with ways to reach farmers who were growing a certain crop.  It did not take me long to determine that we were NOT going to be able to be successful using social media to sway them to our argument, so we let go and focused on other things.  It’s not going to work every time – but it will more times than not.
  5. Work with others to build your program.  I am an unabashed “room stacker,” meaning that if I am going into a meeting and pitching an idea to a group of people who will give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on an idea, I make sure to reach out to the people who I trust beforehand, do a soft-sounding of my idea, put it in terms that benefits them, and hopefully ensure that I’ll have one more “yes” vote when it comes time to choose my approach.  So think about your legal, communications, public relations, HR, public affairs and marketing colleagues and reach out to them before that all-important decision meeting.
  6. Internal is important too.  This item came to mind from a kerfuffle in 2012 when a young lady by the name of Cathryn Sloan wrote an article “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25” that set off an Internet firestorm that I waded in to and actually got to write a rebuttal on the very same same site.  My response to her was this: “Dear NextGen: A Rebuttal From the Social Media Old Folks.”  I pointed out that just because you are really good at Facebook does not mean that you will be successful at implementing it in a work setting.  The example I use is that, just like stacking the room with supporters, you need to consistently and enthusiastically be a social media evangelist at your employer.  Give brown bag lunches.  Make people understand what it is that you are accomplishing.  Back it up with benefits-oriented statements from the point of view of your organization.  Think of yourself as someone who is thinking about running for President while building allies and accepting contributions.  Work the crowd.  Consistently.  Knowing how to do this (or that it is even necessary) comes from years of experience – that’s why so many people got ticked off at what Cathryn Sloan wrote four years ago.  It is much more likely that a seasoned communications person who happens to do social will know this, rather than someone who is god at Facebook but unable to articulate how this will further organizational objectives – and build a coalition of supporters.

Finally, the go-to point that is usually the deal-clincher is simply this:  if your employer thinks that he/she can control what people are saying about your company, I guarantee you that this means that you have already lost control.

Hang in there guys. I’ve gotten The Look for almost two decades, and I keep going back for more.


Image from QuotesGram.

Top Ten Tips for Effective Advocacy in the Age of Slactivism

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 5.45.05 PM

I had the pleasure of being the public affairs world on the agency side for about 15 years, have also done so in the private sector for a non U.S. company and have also done two stints inside of the federal government.  So for eight (or often, more) hours per day, I would think of new and interesting ways to move along the policy, regulatory or legislative agendas hundreds of times.  Online or offline.  Facebook or face-to-face.  From the sender point of view or the receiver point of view.  Since the mid 1990s.

In many ways, I suppose that I was lucky when I was doing grassroots and advocacy work, because “back in the day” [insert Grandpa Simpson voice], our goal was to get advocates to actually DO something.   We got addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.  And we used them.  We organized.  We filled up buses. We got stuff done.  Sometimes, we won, and more often, we lost.  But we got people to get skin in the game.

The Golden Goose for advocacy: federal dollars

I am treading carefully here because this post, like all others that I have written since I started blogging ten years ago express my opinions and mine alone (God, I get tired of saying that.  And if you have any questions, pop over to my disclaimer page).

Let’s use the current example that I know best, medical research funding.  It begins in Congress with the appropriations process. Most federal funding comes from the Appropriations Committees.   These are the members of the Appropriations Committees in the House and the Senate. THESE people matter because they are the ones who have a say in how federal money gets spent. So unless your congressional representatives are on these lists, your time and energy are best spent elsewhere.

Before partisan bickering was in vogue on Capitol Hill, things actually got done. There was a schedule to getting appropriations bills done.  If and when you DO build a relationship with a Hill staffer to a Member on an Appropriations Committee, good advocates get an idea of the legislative schedule. Knowing WHEN to act is sometimes more important than knowing what to do.  When will a bill be introduced? When does the real budget planning process begin? If a staffer has his head buried in a military spending bill, you are not going to get her attention for medical research funding – in that moment. Forget your awareness month and the Hill Day that YOU schedule. You have to know when Congress is actually taking action on what matters to you.

And consider the following from someone who has been on both sides of the federal governm.nt fence and worked in online and offline advocacy.

Ten tips for how to be an effective advocate

  1. Hill Days are great if you want a trip to Washington, DC, but unless your representative is on an Appropriations Committee or best pals with one, you are often wasting your time.  You get a grab and grin and you get shown the door.
  2. Your relationship with the Hill staffers (yes, harried 24 year-old) is your best key in the door to know if, when and how to get noticed. This is art and science; you are not a professional lobbyist, so you need to figure out the balance between passion and reality. Oh, and by the way, you are one in about 100 people who will contact that staffer on any given day, wanting something.  Know that.
  3. The survey is a little dated, but that same Hill Staffer thinks that YOU are vastly more influential than the slick-haired lobbyist.
  4. Forming a relationship with that Hill Staffer means one thing: giving her the information that she needs that will be of value to her boss. NOT the information that you think is important.  And if you want the point of view of that Capitol Hill staffer, read this.
  5. In additional to personal relationships with Hill staff, if you want to get the attention of an Appropriations Committee member and are on a shoestring budget, pitch a compelling, personal story to the Member’s local or most influential paper. The now-retiring Barbara Mikulski of Maryland’s home paper is the Baltimore Sun. You can be darned sure that it gets scanned every day for stories that may interest the Senator. It costs nothing to pitch a reporter.
  6. Stop infighting. People usually become medical research advocates because of a personal loss, and this makes people wildly passionate – too passionate. Trust me, I get it. But there is a time for passion and a time for steel-eyed logic. But guess what? There is way too much bickering and agenda setting. What if each and every last one banded together, with a united budget, ask and agenda? And actually worked with the people who decided how the money got spent?  Nirvana.
  7. The people in the federal government agencies are not the enemy. Holding rallies, protests and other events to change the way that they “see” things is a waste of time. FDA, NIH or any other alphabet soup agency and others want funding for different types of diseases or medicines as much as we do. They want enormous budgets too. They want to write big, fat checks to researchers to do amazing things. But they don’t get to choose how much money they get. That comes from Congress.  So try working with them.  They want the same thing.
  8. Collaboration will bring about change. Combine the two items above and imagine the immense power of working together across advocacy groups, Congress and the federal government. Imagine the possibilities of getting everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction, aiming for the same goal.
  9. Stop with the Hashtag campaigns. This could be a whole different post, but understand the power – and limits – of social media. 100,000 uses of a hashtag is not going to get you anywhere. 3,000 shares of your loved one, while tender, is not going to influence what you want: to increase funding for disease-related research.   These do not impact Capitol Hill, Pharma nor other federal institutions. Think of how AIDS funding got done in the 1980s: people showed up, protested, occupied and demanded attention. Asking for Likes and re-tweets makes people lazy and ineffective. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.
  10. Beware the Slactivist.   This is closely related to the prior point, but what many advocacy groups have failed to grasp is the fact that you are CREATING SLACKTIVISTS.  Aslacktivist is someone who, with very little effort:
    • Comes across an interest cause or issue while surfing social media;
    • Likes, shares, re-tweets, pins or in some other way (and with one click) passes along the information, fulfilling her desire to feel good and worthy (five seconds); and
    • Immediately disengages from the “cause,” moving on to an animated .gif of a cat with a piece of string.

If you want “awareness,” count on slactivists.  If you want to MOVE THE NEEDLE, go back and read the Top Ten Tips above.

From "Confessions of a Capitol Hill Staffer"
From “Confessions of a Capitol Hill Staffer

The motivation behind writing this was that now that I am really getting to meet some wonderful, smart, passionate and intelligent advocates and people who really care, I want to help.  I want to help advocacy, particularly for medical research funding.  I want to help those in the federal government who toil for a fraction of what they could make in the private sector because they believe so passionately in the work that they do.   And I want to help the legislators understand how kicking the can down the road with omnibus bills and Continuing Resolutions makes it so much harder for everyone else.

So please.  Can’t we all just get along?

The views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone and do not reflect those of the National Cancer Institute, Kelly Government Services, nor any other corporate overlord for whom I have toiled.  Don’t believe me?  Read my disclaimer.


Patients and the Power of Online Communities – Get on the Train

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.23.32 AM

I have been formulating this post in my head for some time, not quite having crystallized what I wanted to say.  Yesterday, that changed.  Sally James sent me a piece that she had written for the Health News Review, “When patients speak – some hear golden tones and others noise.”  It made me think.

The essence of the piece is, as Sally wrote, “how and where and when to register patient feedback in health care.”  It is a sub-component of what has been brewing in my head for some time:

  • How and when do we know that the value of online has resonated and has demonstrated impact within the medical community?
  • How does social media help connect patients with each other, caregivers, doctors and researchers?
  • Is it fair game to rate your doctor on a consumer opinion web site like Yelp?
  • What is the legitimate impact of online in the healthcare world?

Online matters: becoming your own healthcare advocate

I commented on Sally’s piece yesterday (again, my personal opinion – my standard disclaimer is at the bottom of this post and even has its own, shiny page) that in the Internet of Things era, those who use it wisely can become much more educated consumers and patients.  We can connect with others via social media and web sites and participate in these meaningful online communities, joining others that are impacted by the same illnesses.

We can gather information, get support and even research clinical trials that are sometimes still woefully undiscovered.  This enables us to ask in-depth questions and also better understand treatment options – in short, we can become more informed consumers.  Does this make us doctors?  No.  Can this outcome be measured?  Probably not.  But healthcare decisions are among the most important choices we make in our lives or on behalf of others, so why not be as informed as possible?

The debate: is online fair to doctors?

I was surprised to see that there is controversy surrounding patients reviewing the care that they receive from their doctors, mainly about those who comment on Yelp.  This prompted an Internet dust-up between Niam Yaraghi of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution and Casey Quinlan of Mighty Casey Media (more on their backgrounds in Sally’s piece).

Side note: these two also got together in a Google Hangout that is archived on YouTube, “Patient Reviews of Physicians: The Wisdom of the Crowd?

Again, I think in simple terms (I am a not a doctor,  I am a communicator who uses social media:  I literally wrote the book), but I am often exposed to scientists and healthcare professionals who get caught up in the Big Data Trap – one has to have hard core, unassailable data to prove a point in medicine and healthcare, particularly when it comes to online information and patient communities. I have been involved in online since 1997, and I can tell you that on many occasions, I have seen that online (particularly Twitter) can have a meaningful impact that is often dismissed for lack of scientific rigor.

Online matters – and there is data

Early adopters/advocates like Janet Freeman-Daly of the #LCSM (Lung Cancer Social Media) Twitter communities have done pioneering work in gathering cancer patients together, connected via one hashtag, to support each other, share resources and information, and even chat via Twitter on a bi-weekly basisThe Healthcare Hashtag Project and those behind it have done groundbreaking work at standardizing the use of hashtags in disease-specific communities, demonstrating the impact of Twitter to unite patient communities.  So when you create a virtual community where patients, caregivers or doctors can connect, ensure that they all gather in the right place and are discussing the same topic (the hashtag), amazing things can happen.

A turning point for me (and an aforementioned amazing moment) that demonstrated how Twitter does indeed matter to doctors (in this case, oncologists) took place recently during an #LCSM chat led by Dr. H. Jack West.  The chat was about lung cancer and immunotherapy, but what really caught my attention was that the topics discussed during the chat were fairly technical and scientific:

I followed the chat as did many others, but what amazed me was that I saw oncologists talking to oncologists, and this gave me hope (and a possible proof point) that scientists and doctors are increasingly seeing the value of using social media to communicate with patients and each other:

Online matters: another proof point

Physicians/social media thought leaders like Dr. Matthew Katz are doing incredible work to quantify the impact of Twitter communities formed around particular diseases and in one particular study, cancer.  Dr. Katz recently presented a poster the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO’s) annual meeting entitled: “Disease Specific Hashtags for Online Communications About Cancer Care.”  I was not at ASCO, but I certainly saw this poster’s impact – on Twitter.  It was one of the first truly comprehensive efforts I have seen to prove the point that online patient communities matter.

Credit: Matthew S. Katz, MD (click here for a larger version)

What this all means to me

Within the last few weeks, I have seen much-needed proof points that online truly matters to healthcare, particularly in the cancer community.  I’ve seen that consumer review web sites can serve as a way to gather information about healthcare providers (and rile up some folks too).  I have seen new frontiers of vibrant, online communities that began with patients talking to patients and now include active discussions among  prominent physicians.

And finally, I have seen an amazing statistics-based analysis of cancer-specific hashtags presented at one of the most prestigious cancer meetings in the world.

In short? Yeah, online matters.  And the train has left the station.

The views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone and do not reflect those of the National Cancer Institute nor Kelly Government Services.  Sigh.

Image credit:

The Intersection of Healthcare, Cancer and Twitter: It’s Here, Folks

I am an unabashed fan of The Simpsons and one of my favorite episodes is that in which Homer details all Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.14.08 PMof the 188 jobs he held in the first 400 episodes.  Myself, I have worked in the public relations agency world for three agencies, as a college professor, I’ve had my own company, worked for the federal government, for a Chinese behemoth that became the largest IPO in history and as a contractor for a federal agency.  So yeah,  I sometimes wake up feeling professionally like Homer Simpson.

My current job at the National Cancer Institute has brought me more job satisfaction  than I think I’ve ever experienced.  Most days, I get to go home with the feeling that, since I am in communications, I did something to help connect patients, caregivers, researchers, doctors, clinicians and others.  Cancer rightfully scares the hell out of many people, and what I have experienced is that those who suffer from or care for those who have this terrible set of diseases crave is information.  

While many people still get information about cancer from sources like their doctors, or 1-800-4-CANCER, increasingly, people are turning to social media for information, support and resources.  Every day, I’ve tried to to do my best at helping to make people aware, on a large scale, of the cancer-related information available to them during my tenure at the NCI.

What I am proudest of though, is what started as a crazy idea and ended up being what Audun Utengen, of Symplur called “unprecendented.”  I knew for some time that Siddhartha Mukherjee‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” would become a PBS documentary co-produced by Ken Burns and Barak Goodman.  It was a three night,  six hour very accurate portrayal of the book (March 30 – April 1, 2015), but one interwoven with compelling interviews, personal stories, triumph and tears.

My crazy idea

My whole train of thought began with what we could NOT do, and that was to miss the opportunity of a lifetime to capitalize on the fact that millions of Americans would be watching a program about the past and present of cancer research and treatment.  Millions of people were going to be focused on cancer.  As the nation’s engine that drives basic cancer research, we at NCI had to do something that would have an enormous and lasting impact on those impacted by cancer.  But what?

Big screen/small screen
Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Live-tweeting #CancerFilm

Based upon the premise of marrying the “big screen/small screen” phenomenon for events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars (remember the Oreo cookie tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl power outage?), what if we could get people to watch the film, and cancer experts could simultaneously provide running commentary and information about cancer – as the facts or stories appeared on the film?  In essence, what if we could live-tweet one of the most important online events about cancer – EVER?  The hashtag, #CancerFilm had already been registered and was in use, and we were thinking big.

Then what?

I knew that NCI’s lone voice was not going to be enough to have the impact we craved.  Luckily, the National Cancer Institute has a vast network of cancer centers as well as an engaged group of advocates.  So we reached out to them and said, “What if we did this – but on a really big scale?”  Well, we were fortunate enough to live-tweet all three nights of Emperor with a group of 18 partners:  cancer centers, advocates,  clinicians and many, many more.

So what happened?

After a tremendous amount of planning, preparation, coordination, we had our plan in place.  When one of many possible cancer topics were mentioned during all three nights of Emperor, the NCI, our 18 partners and others were ready to provide the information in the moment in which it was mentioned.  For example, when the very popular topic of immunotherapy was mentioned, many experts provided links to additional resources in real-time:Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 4.27.39 PMBut we still had the question:  if we all got together and a threw party, would anyone show up? Would people engage in an online conversation about cancer on Twitter while a compelling documentary was airing (across all U.S. time zones, each night beginning at 9:00 pm ET)?  With baited breath, each night I ran reports that were made possible by the Healthcare Hashtag Project, and based upon the tweets that I saw fly past on my Tweetdeck screen, I knew that we were on to something.  And I hoped that it would be BIG.

The results:

NCI, our partners and thousands and thousands of other Twitter users did, in fact, live-tweet using the #CancerFilm hashtag, providing information about the past and present of cancer treatment, but we couldn’t stop there.  So the day after the last night of the documentary, all of us in the partnership (and some new organizations and individuals) conducted a highly successful Twitter chat about what many believe is the future of cancer treatment: immunotherapy.

What I saw flying past my Tweetdeck screen during all three nights as well as the chat on the day after the last episode was people asked questions, engaging in dialogue, arguing and discussing.  And most importantly, that was made possible by the “big screen/small screen” connection.

There are two sets of results that I count.  The first one is quantitative.  Our social media experiment resulted in:

  • 443 million Twitter mentions in three and a half days;
  • 56,565 tweets;
  • 12,234 participants;
  • All three nights and during the chat, our lead Twitter account, @theNCI, was the #1 influencer according to the Healthcare Hashtag Project;
  • The NCI  and our partners drove the discussion that resulted in one out of every four tweets (more than 120 million mentions); and
  • People found value in the information we provided:  @theNCI saw more than 32,000 engagements (favorites, shares, clicks, video views, etc), indicating that we really were giving people the cancer information that they wanted, when they wanted it.

While the numbers are big, and even if one supposes that, as according to Twitter, only 2-5% of all tweets are actually seen, that is still means that people saw and reacted to between 8.8 and 22.5 MILLION tweets.

What really mattered

While the numbers were beyond our expectations, what really mattered is what we could not measure, the qualitative part:  somewhere, there was someone watching and tweeting who was battling cancer and craved information;  somewhere, someone recognized that clinical trials can be a first option, not a last option; someone read about the tragedy and promise of the past and present of battling this terrible disease; and somewhere, someone realized that if they were nearing the sunset of their own battle with cancer, they learned about palliative care  – and discovered that they had the right to choose how and where their cancer journey ended.


What prompted this blog post was an June 9 article in the highly respected Public Library of Science (PloS) blog by Sally James (‘Second Screen’ for Health Care Messaging: Looking for Lessons from #CancerFilm) in which others called the effort “unprecedented” and “an explosion of people talking about a disease.”  In the PLoS post, Sally wrote:

“Media relations expert Greg Matthews believes the social media explosion of #cancerfilm will inspire others to attempt to re-create it.  “Anyone who saw the impact that #cancerfilm had on the online health ecosystem is going to be building on that model – it was phenomenally successful.”

Those are wonderful words to read and the social media experiment, while a tremendous amount of work, collaboration and cooperation, was the most gratifying professional effort that I have ever undertaken.  And if it inspires others to re-create it, all the better.

So even after some amazing numbers, I still tried to focus on what is most important:  getting cancer-related information to those who need it most.  I hit the “reset” button on my job every day.  Innovation is needed because cancer doesn’t wait, so I don’t either.

Can we truly measure the most important impact, reaching people in a moment of need?  No way.  Did it happen?  I am certain of it.

That’s why I love what I get to do every day.


P.S.:  In case you have not read my disclaimer page on this site, my Twitter account nor any of the other places online where my words are littered, know that the views expressed in this post are mine and mine alone and do not represent those of the National Cancer Institute nor Kelly Government Services.





Dear Mass Media and Social Media: Help Stop Terrorism

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 8.17.18 AM

There are way too many mornings when I awake to read another front-page article about an innocent person who is killed (now, often beheaded) by implacable, bloodthirsty terrorists.  These stories appear often in the online equivalent of above the fold (or for people who still buy papers, really above the fold).  This morning was no exception when I read about the beheading of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist.

From my own memories of September 11 to the “Je Suis Charlie” movement to these latest horrific videos, a thought occurred to me that stirred up memories from when I was a kid.   Growing up a baseball fan, the only games I got to watch were those broadcast on network television on Saturdays – the Game of the Week.  In the 1970s, it became in vogue to either streak across the field or run around like an idiot until you got tackled, hauled off and likely released a couple of hours later – so everyone could see you on network TV.  It still happens (see below), but the impact is largely confined to social media (this video has more than three million views):


In the 70s, the TV cameras used to follow these idiots, tracking them while they tried to elude either the police or stadium security and the announcers would often provide commentary.  Then, someone came up with a great idea:  STOP SHOWING THE IDIOTS.  By denying them what they wanted most – “exposure” on television, the craze eventually went away.

I have been around the media for a LONG time and know that in about every news room in America, the mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads” holds true.  The more gruesome the killing, violence, hostage situation, you name it, the more the editors salivate at the increase circulation numbers, eyeballs or TV ratings.  it’s true: newsrooms love this stuff.  If you don’t believe me, ask a reporter.  It gains eyeballs, clicks and readers.

Bloodthirsty animals like ISIS are now exploiting traditional and social media to boast and show off their latest atrocities, and at least the media that I read are more than happy to write prominent articles about it with pictures of some poor soul kneeling before someone in the last, humiliating moments of their lives. And yes, I showed  the image above, but to make a point.

There is an all-too-familiar pattern to what is happening today in the poorly named “war against terror.”  It goes like this:

  1. Sadistic, media-crazed barbarians kidnap an innocent civilian
  2. Said barbarians issue a picture or video, demand ransom and publicize their latest prize
  3. Media carries the story, along with quotes from said barbaric group
  4. Demands are not met or ransom is not paid
  5. Innocent person gets killed, often in bloodthirsty, dramatic fashion, such as a beheading
  6. Sadistic animals release a video and a statement that is carried VERBATIM by media outlets all over the world, becoming a megaphone for said barbarians
  7. Impotent world leaders express outrage.  Today’s statement from the Japanese government was “Japan strongly condemned the killing, saying an “atrocious act of terrorism” had been committed and that the country was “outraged by the horrific act.
  8. Fueled by world attention in mainstream and social media, sadistic, media-crazed barbarians prepare to re-feed the media beast that lives off of “if it bleeds, it leads.”
  9. Repeat.  Again, and again.

Don’t believe me?  How about Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University?  He says:

“Terrorism is basically a media phenomenon,  You can look at it as a species of psychological warfare waged through the media. Which means that while we know terrorists influence the media, media coverage also influences terrorists.

Well, I don’t own guns.  I can’t drop bombs.  But I am pretty smart and have worked in communications since the late 1990s, and here’s my piece of unsolicited advice for the print, television, radio and social media decision makers:


YouTube and Twitter have done their best to deny social media as a venue for these animals, but it’s difficult and this stuff goes viral – fast.  According to a September 2014 article, Forbes reports “With 100 hours of new footage uploaded every minute, YouTube says it doesn’t, and couldn’t, prescreen content, relying on users to flag violations.”  I get it.  These two platforms have the best of intentions, but are overloaded.

But I’m not done.

ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News and others:  stop reporting on beheadings.  Major newspapers like my hometown Washington Post (on which I learned of the latest atrocity), deny the terrorists a cheap propaganda victory.  Online news outlets like the Huffington Post: think about what you can do to help win the poorly named “war on terror,” ignore the spike that you’ll see in web traffic and stop being their publicists.  

Does this apply to every act of terror?  Certainly not.  Events like what happened at Charlie Hebdo can and must be reported.  BUT – for those editors who make the “write or don’t write,” “report or don’t report” decisions on individual acts of terror accompanied by insane rants, ask yourselves an important question:

By reporting on acts of bloodthirsty violence, are you interested in helping terrorists get out their propaganda, or are you interested in making money?

It might seem complex, but it’s actually pretty damn simple.

Stop showing the idiot on the baseball field.  Go to commercial.  Deny the idiot/animal their platform.

And take away their power.