Why Your Company Needs to Pay Attention to the News
“There’s a big difference between internal and external communication, but in times of crisis, you must understand that anything you say, even internally, could be made public,” says Media Minefield founder and CEO Kristi Piehl.

Why Your Company Needs to Pay Attention to the News

How to take a stand without jeopardizing your business.

Do you remember when the only news we consumed was the evening news or the newspaper? Now people have 24/7 access to news via social media. The average daily time spent using social media is two hours and 27 minutes, so with breaking news constantly at our fingertips and many people working from home, we can learn about and watch local and national news unfold in near-real time. At the same time, people want to work for and do business with companies that align with their values—now more than ever. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 60% of people choose an employer based on their beliefs, and 58% buy from brands based on their values. This often means that when a story dominates the headlines, employees and customers expect company leaders to weigh in. Whether it’s a controversial Supreme Court decision or a devastating shooting, it is essential for leaders to pay attention to the news and to understand the impact it has on employees, customers, and stakeholders. 

When should you respond to current events?

Around 60% of employees want their CEO to speak out on controversial issues they care about—but before you respond to a current event, ask yourself:  

  1. Who is your audience? Determining your audience changes how you respond. If a news item affects your employees, your response might be appropriate for a company meeting or email. If the news is making headlines around the world, sharing a response via social media might be essential. There’s a big difference between internal and external communication, but in times of crisis, you must understand that anything you say, even internally, could be made public. 
  2. What is your goal? Think of the composition of your workforce and the people buying your products or services. What are you trying to accomplish by acknowledging or responding to a current event? If your employees and customers are talking about something and it affects their lives, you probably should be talking about it too. However, it’s important to have something to say. What is the message your employees or your customers need or expect to hear from you? By determining your goal, you can get a clearer picture of whether or not to chime in.
  3. Is it authentic? Many leaders have been taught that being vulnerable is a weakness, but today’s consumers and employees want to see authenticity. How you respond to something needs to be true to the company and its core values and culture, or your employees and customers will see through it. 

Follow news at the source

Whatever the event, go to the original documentation or source to help understand what happened and, possibly, why. If you’re sharing information with your company or customers, always try to share directly from the source; if you can’t, be aware of the news outlet you use for the citation, because certain sites might position the news with an intended bias. And be aware that anyone can get taken in by misinformation on social media, especially without proper media training on sourcing and fact-checking. Even as a former investigative journalist, I once went around the office repeating a Timberwolves trade that wasn’t true. It wasn’t until someone pushed me on the source that I realized it wasn’t legitimate. Do your research first, and then you can determine how to respond.  

How to respond to current events

It’s important to know the story and the messaging you want to share before you respond. People connect with stories, but there’s a fine line between connecting with people and only talking about yourself. Every event affects people differently. While it may not be appropriate to share your political views, people care about your outlook on humanity. Your messaging should be based on your core values, not someone’s idea of how you can make a splash or sell a product.

As the news cycle continues to dominate daily lives, talk with managers to better understand your workforce. It’s great that you read the Wall Street Journal, but you need to understand what’s going viral on Twitter or TikTok too, because that’s likely where many of your employees and customers are getting their information. Economic challenges, elections, and major cultural decisions are coming. Paying attention to what’s going on will create a more engaged workforce and a more loyal customer base. 

Kristi Piehl is the founder/CEO of Media Minefield, a Minnetonka public relations agency she launched following 12 years as an Emmy-winning news reporter. She also hosts the Flip Your Script podcast.

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