Federal shutdown steals our sanity – and the news cycle


We can debate the federal shutdown and looming debt ceiling “talks” until pigs fly (or, just as likely, Congress becomes a functional unit again), but the fact is that both those issues are bringing the country to state of near-paralysis.  If you don’t love a culture of economic anxiety and infuriating, nonsensical political rhetoric, you’re in the wrong decade.

Tough talking politicians, hand-wringing citizens, and a fiscal anvil the size — and spirit – of Texas hanging over the country combine for a harrowing trifecta, but they also make for great theater.  Senators are lining up for the spotlight and economists and pundits will get their ample share.  The 24 hours news cycle is spinning on this axis, and not much else…nothing proves that better than the good old fashioned Shutdown Clock pictured above.

For public relations firms that have economists, politicians, and market timers trained and at the ready, there is opportunity to shine on the national stage.  For those representing other industries, let’s just say you may not be the top item of the editorial meeting at the Wall Street Journal this month.

With that in mind, here are a few items to consider during this laser focused news cycle:

  • If you have the insight, bust out the big guns.  Experts with valid viewpoints to contribute should be on their game.  In this environment, however, competition is fierce so bring the magic.  Build a package of expertise that relates to the issue at hand, and know that there are hundreds of other experts that likely have the same idea.
  • Take two, think it through.  Even if outstanding experts have something to say about the shutdown and its impact, will it advance your strategic goals?  Face time is nice, but again, it’s a crowded space and it will be difficult to stand out (we’ve seen 9 experts in one segment on CNBC…good luck naming any one of them).  Decide if this situation is a realistic platform for the right message to be conveyed; if not, don’t hesitate to sit this round out.
  • Embrace the silence.  Like in a car ride with an old friend, sometimes a little quiet does more good than you think.  Don’t try to shoehorn your expertise into a conversation that isn’t a fit – the result will be awkward and could have a lasting impression.
  • Look to year-end.   This too shall pass.  When it does, you’ve either a) spent your energy trying to force your way into the dialogue, b) you’ve  gone on vacation, or c) you’ve focused on preparing a more strategically sound avenue.  While Costa Rica does sound nice right about now, we vote for c).  As we near year-end, this political situation will be resolved.  Consider the messages most important for the turn of the year and craft campaigns that will be effective in the post-crisis news cycle.

That last point is critical – don’t get sucked into the single-minded vortex of the current media agenda.  As the conversation fades, the impact of this debacle will still be playing out.  Companies that can keep their house and their brand in order should be prepared to bring the right message to market and start the next cycle from a position of strength.

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One Response to “Federal shutdown steals our sanity – and the news cycle”

  1. Three Things PR Pros Should Do To Get The Most Out of Social Media – womeninpr Says:

    […] and publications were covering the government shutdown, Ebben Zall Group took to our company blog  to discuss the situation. We found a way to incorporate our business objectives into what was […]

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