Students Shine a Light where Politicians Have Cowered

"When your children act like leaders and your leaders act like children, you know change is coming.” 

So Tweeted Mikel F. Jollett

” We’ve had enough. We are the generation that was born after Columbine. We have lived with is our entire lives and now it happened at my school. I spent two hours in a closet just hiding and I am done hiding. We're done hiding. America has done hiding.” 

Matt Dietsch, survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

At its best, media informs, educates and engages. In this case, some of the coverage of the students speaking out in the aftermath of the shooting has shown the media at its best.

Students from Stoneman Douglas High School have sounded the alarm and brought the gun control debate to the forefront days after they survived a mass shooting on campus on Feb. 14.

The suspect, a former student, entered the school with a legally purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people.

Over the last few days, we've seen the power of voices raised as one. The students of Stoneman Douglas and the other students around the nation who have joined with them have been able to bring an issue to light to shine a light on it that no other group has before.

Gun violence in America is an issue that has been one where empty rhetoric has replaced action as countless innocent victims have been senselessly gunned down. On one side of the aisle, politicians afraid of alienating their base, afraid of losing votes and afraid of losing funding, have chosen their political careers over lost lives. On the other side, those who thought this was a losing issue and one not worth the battle, have backed down.

But all that is changing, students whose lives have been affected have raised the alarm and as they persevere, they are making a difference. Dubbed the "Never Again" movement, the teenage activists are utilizing the traditional media, being interviewed on television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.  They are also mobilizing on social media, organizing school walkouts, and planning a nationwide protest for March 24.  They are sending a message and those who turned deaf ears to so many in the past are being forced to listen.

#BoycottNRA hashtag has taken on a life of it’s on and it is making a difference.  A partial list of companies who have cut ties with the NRA include:

Whether this new movement will continue to have an impact, or whether the political powers that be will be able to shut it down as they have other attempts to raise the alarm, still needs to be seen. Regardless, these students have changed the landscape forever. They have raised their voices, have been heard and they now understand that they can impact society as a whole. The fact that it took this many deaths and children raising their voices to be heard is a sad commentary on where we are as a nation.

And now it is up to the rest of us. America now needs to stand with its children and the media needs fulfill its obligation by keeping a spotlight on the issue and not letting it die or become simply another news cycle that passes and is forgotten.

Happily Ever Appter: Traditional PR Gets Social

There’s no doubt that Public Relations is an art. PR is a unique combination of communications mastery, sincere relationship building, and Jeopardy-level knowledge of current events. For good measure, toss in some tenacity and a sixth sense for what people will find compelling, and how. In PR, we build brands that set trends by capitalizing on the current.

But while PR has always required that we keep our fingers on the pulse of current global culture, what we consider “the media” is now more far-reaching, ubiquitous, and noisy than ever.

So how do we keep up? How do we separate the substance from the fluff, and make sure our own (quality) content stands out? We could easily drive ourselves into the ground trying to shoehorn our original methods into digital-age style, or we can evolve with the industry.

In short, to be successful in PR V.2017, we have to work smart, not just hard. And I do mean that literally—get your smart phone, we’re going mobile.

Okay, not just mobile, but that is a big part of it. These days, we have to optimize our journalism-based storytelling within traditional media outlets for the platforms and apps that drive contemporary consumer connection.

I’m not suggesting we toss our standards to the wind in favor of churning out daily content for ten different platforms in an effort to simply invite the masses to mindlessly “like” us. Quite the contrary, we have to raise our standards for content creation in order to stand out in a sea of contributors, and then we have to employ those same standards in carefully trimming and adapting that content for multiple short-form and visual platforms in a way that not only grabs attention, but keeps it.

When we do all of that successfully, we effectively convert momentary fans into long-term followers who will continue to engage with us through whichever platforms they prefer.

Social media—an incredibly broad term for the multitude of user-based sharing platforms that connect and inundate billions of brains a day—is here to stay. Maybe not in its current forms, for certainly not all of today’s popular platforms will weather the millennial storm, but it is undeniable that social technology has woven itself inextricably into daily human livelihood.

Increasingly, our conversations with clients include strategic approaches to pairing social and traditional media (sometimes even viral marketing), because it’s both what clients are already seeing daily and what we suggest they use to maximize their presence. We also have a much more involved relationship with web developers and analytics experts because we’re constantly monitoring the ways that people ingest interviews and news, and making sure content is accessible to the largest number of people.

What this means: If you are a PR professional, read up on social platforms, mobile news apps, and the digital workspace tools that can help you streamline efficiency and engage with your audiences. If you’re a writer looking to self-promote or hire a PR firm, make sure that you and/or your reps understand thoroughly the critical combination of legitimate news coverage and clever, multi-platform content distribution—that's definitely a conversation to have early on.

O brave new world!

Top image courtesy of Espresso Digital