Ugly. That’s the only way to describe what happened on Monday, when companies across the nation announced that over 72,000 workers would be laid off. Caterpillar, General Motors, Home Depot, IBM, Pfizer, Sprint Nextel, and Texas Instruments were among those announcing workforce reductions. Even two National Football League teams — the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins — said they were paring their employee rolls.
The economy, as if you didn’t already know, is reeling. Headlines are being dominated by negative and troubling events. Each new day brings more layoff announcements and scandal — two alleged Ponzi scheme operators were arrested on Tuesday — and with each new day, solutions seem more difficult to come by. All is not lost, however.
Companies expanding their workforce, holding their ground, or even making minimal layoffs can take advantage of the dearth of good news and rack up some positive publicity using simple pitches. In fact, this is a great time for companies big and small to get their name out there, because the media are looking for any morsel of good news.
This week, for example, I’ve read about: Fortune 500 company Affiliated Computer Services hiring in Portland, Oregon; software firm Campus Management Corp. adding workers at its headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida; nuclear services outfit UniTech Services Group taking on workers in Barnwell, South
Carolina; and independent oil companies continuing to hire, as reported in a Reuters story.
Newspapers, magazines, local television affiliates, and major media companies have all been hit with layoffs, so journalists are acutely aware of what’s going on. Based on my experience, journalists get frustrated writing about negative news and readers likewise get fed up with staring
at depressing headlines. Editors react by ordering more positive news coverage, asking reporters to find companies that are bucking the trend or doing something noteworthy.
Looking back on my own archive of work, I noticed that in early 2002, as the economy was floundering due to the dot-com bubble-burst and impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I began writing more positive stories and columns. Previously, more than 90% of what I wrote could be construed as negative. During the first six months of 2002, however, about half of what I wrote had a positive focus.
I bounced my findings off a network television news producer.
“That sounds about right,” he said. “News is inherently negative, but when times are tough you see a shift towards more positive coverage. [News consumers] want to feel good about something and if they’re not getting it from the media, they’ll turn to entertainment to find it.”
Getting positive coverage is never a slam-dunk, but now is an opportune time to go for the gold. Pitches highlighting a company’s continuing growth, plans to hire, or an interesting background story are more likely to be received warmly now that journalists are inundated with negative news. The payoffs include a boost in employee morale and a signal to customers and partners, as well as competitors,
that your company is strong.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.