Let’s face it; drawing media attention, particularly for positive stories, is tougher than ever.

One reason is simple: There are fewer reporters, editors and traditional media outlets. And the ones that remain are under siege by a growing roster of flacks, many who used to toil as…you guessed it…reporters and editors.

We certainly have discussed via Almost DailyBrett and a plethora of other blogs the trend toward self-publishing employing digital tools. Ditto for the growing impact of bloggers as substitutes for disappearing mainline publication/electronic media editors and reporters. Blogging, podcasting, webcasting and participating on social media sites (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook…) represent the way we do business in the early decades of the 21st Century.

Does this mean that we abandon traditional media? There are still news holes to be filled and more often than not they are digital voids composed of ones and zeroes. Harried and worried editors and reporters still need information, so who are they going to turn to?

The obvious is they are going to rely on those sources that offer bona-fide news stories. PR professionals are being challenged in the present century just as they were previously to come up with news story ideas that more than pass the giggle test.

Here’s an intriguing thought, what about “man bites dog” stories? What about tales that are counterintuitive, lay waste to conventional wisdom and go against the grain? Here are few anecdotes.

The most celebrated case revolves around the leader of the free world. We were all told that no African-American could ever be elected president. That was the CW. On top of that there was this latent “Bradley effect,” (nothing raises my blood pressure faster…but that is the subject for another post) in which voters will behave differently in the voter booth, than what they tell pollsters, when an African-American is on the ballot. So much for the Bradley effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_bradley_effect

Here’s another, far-less known and virtually forgotten example of taking convention and turning it upside down. A timber association in Washington State petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1990 to have loggers listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Isn’t the ESA about protecting cute owls, squirrels and snail darters? What’s this about people being threatened or endangered? http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19901012&slug=1097881; http://www.seattlepi.com/archives/1990/9010140060.asp

Ultimately the loggers and their families were not listed under the ESA and critical habitat was not set aside for their survival, but the story still drew considerable media attention because it went directly counter to the trend and defied convention.

It certainly did not hurt the play of the story to have a representative of the Wilderness Society accused the loggers of a “mockery of the scientific world,” and taking a “ridiculous” action and making “irresponsible” statements. Not only do reporters and editors gravitate to man bites dog stories, but they are particularly attracted to counterintuitive stories that degenerate into public urination contests. Pass the towel, please!

Closer to home, I offered my own “man bites dog” response last week to MarketWatch.com. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/eight-ways-to-stay-healthy-during-a-long-job-hunt-2010-04-22?pagenumber=1 The reporter wanted to know how my health deteriorated during my nearly one year out on the hustings. After all, doesn’t every unemployed senior communicator turn to the bottle, gain three or four inches on the waist-line or suffer from sleep deprivation?

In my particular case, my unemployment has provided me with more time than ever to get into great shape (three days per week of upper-body resistance training and three days per week of aerobics). That is not what she expected to hear, which makes the response in my very humble opinion even more interesting.

Or as Henry Kissinger reportedly said, “It has the added value of being the truth.”

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