Breaking Your Own News: Telling Your Story on Your Own Terms

Breaking Your Own News
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2018-08-28
Unit 1Workbook: Breaking Your Own News
Unit 2Slide Deck: Breaking Your Own News: Telling Your Story on Your Own Terms
Unit 3Recording: Breaking Your Own News

Technology helped a lot for people to keep in touch and stay updated whether it is with other people or with their community. Every minute, millions of content are being created through the many social media platforms and other communication channels and media outlets. From these, a chosen few will get the attention of the public and will be elevated to viral status. From funny and heart-warming content to the most controversial ones.

The public service sector’s effectivity is measured by their citizen’s trust, but a story that a random person shared publicly can easily erode that trust. With this in mind, it would be useful to have a platform to tell your story – to present your side in case of defamatory accusations or to proactively and accurately report updates on critical events within your jurisdiction. The Fort Collins Police Services (FCPS) in Colorado is one agency who decided to leverage technology in such a way.

Today’s speakers are members of the FCPS’ Public Information and Media Team. Lieutenant Dean Cunningham works for the Fort Collins Police Services and is currently assigned to the patrol division, the body-worn camera program and is part of their Media Response Team. Kate Kimble is the Relations Manager for the FCPS where she oversees the Media Response Team.

Together, they address the hows and whys of telling stories and delivering the news. They provide tips and best practices to create effective media content. Some of the specifics they delved into include:

  • The two key reasons why you need to tell your story:
    • Because someone else will, and it might be inaccurate if you don’t.
    • Hoping that controversy will go away and things will turn out okay is never a plan.
  • The CAP Message model that the FCPS follows when outlining their stories by showing they care, providing their course of action, and showing the big picture perspective of how a news/story can affect their community.
  • Why it is critical to train personnel who talks to the press in following the CAP Message model.
  • Things to consider when creating your message/content/stories such as who will be the messenger and the best timing to disseminate news/stories.
  • The importance of ensuring that the staff is first informed about an incident/news/story from the inside so they get the accurate details.
  • Case studies from the FCPS showing how telling your own story can:
    • Serve as a form of damage control and make a difference in how your community or even the world perceives your organization.
    • Allow your agency to better manage the press.
    • Allow you to provide accurate information instead of news coming from rumors and hearsay.
  • Lessons that the FCPS and their Media Team learned from experience such as:
    • The importance of showing up and showing up early – especially in situations where public trust is likely to be jeopardized.
    • Thinking like a civilian when coming up with the official statement by considering what their concerns are likely to be.
    • Making a plan before a crisis hits so that when the critical incident happens, you are prepared and trained.
    • Understanding what you can gain and lose.
    • Being ready in case anyone decides not to play by the rules.
  • The concept of feeding the machine by giving the press what it wants in terms of format, urgency, and anticipating the type of information they need.
  • Consider running stories/content in a series in case of a big incident where not all information is easily ready or might still be under investigation.
  • Best practices when creating newsworthy content that looks into the technical side of the equipment, lighting, framing, stability, and audio as well as the soft skills related to delivery, tone and flow.
  • The audience had inquiries during the Q&A related to:
    • The specific hardware/equipment and software/programs that the FCPS Media Response Team uses
    • Distribution of content
    • The PIO go-bags most important items
    • Body worn camera policy on releasing footages
    • Coordinating with other involved agencies within your jurisdiction
Additional Resources
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