Thought Leadership in the Age of Fake News

thought leadership, fake news, Elon musk, Chris Brogan, Doris Kearns Goodwin,

One of the traditionally best routes to positive brand identity, media exposure, and best of all—public trust, is if the founder, CEO, or public face of an entity you represent is, or has the potential to be, what we call a “thought leader.”

“Thought leader” is a jargon-y term, somewhat overused, but succinctly descriptive. A thought leader is a trusted expert in his/her field, often called upon to discuss innovation, best practices, or even the future of said field.

For example, Elon Musk is a thought leader in electric vehicles and space travel; Chris Brogan is a thought leader in marketing and social media; Douglas Brinkley and Doris Kearns Goodwin are thought leaders on American presidents.

Which brings us to the topic of “fake news.” To be clear, fake news isn’t new. While it is exacerbated by the immediacy—and the anonymity—of the Internet, fake news is not a product of the Internet. From Anecdoa to pasquinades to canards, fake news has been with us pretty much since humans could whisper and wink.

In the past, however, we all recognized the difference between stories about Sasquatch reigning terror across the Yukon and the Taliban reigning terror across Afghanistan. Now, we have honest-to-God fabrications finding their way into the news cycle, as well as people with traditionally venerated bully pulpits claiming any news they don’t like is fake—regardless of who reported it or how un-fake it really is.

Setting aside that entire mess, let’s focus for a moment on what that means for PR professionals. We spend much of our time trying to maintain or promote clients as thought leaders in media outlets that once were trusted sources but now are barraged with charges that they are purveyors of fake news.

Entering into any public conversation these days is not for the faint of heart. The topic could be “The Beauty of Roses” and before you can say “stop and smell them,” someone has posted that “Roses are a faux romantic symbol of the Princess trope foisted on young girls as a means of oppression. Boycott Roses!” And so it goes.

In a recent industry survey, 91% of journalists believe the public trusts them less in 2017 than in years past. With the public so angry and media under relentless attack, will people see our clients as reputable thought leaders or as suspicious co-conspirators with alleged fake news outlets? Should we still try to have our clients featured as thought leaders in media outlets?

Yes.

But let’s not stop there. It’s still a good thing for clients to be quoted in media coverage of a topic that’s germane to their expertise, thereby achieving third party validation of their role as thought leaders. The key is to be selective in where you place them.

  • Look for media outlets that retain the public trust, that maintain “standards and practices,” and that maintain clear lines between reportorial, editorial, and sales.
  • Look for bloggers who are themselves recognized leaders in their area of expertise.
  • Avoid outlets with a known political bent (unless that’s your audience).
  • Avoid outlets that are “pay to play.”

The other key is to be prolific.

  • Create think pieces (beyond blogs) for the company’s website and newsletters.
  • Write articles for the company’s LinkedIn page.
  • Create “white papers” on issues concerning your clients’ industries and professions.

As we’ve seen, anyone can dispute facts they don’t like. That doesn’t make those facts any less real. If your clients have something valuable to say, help them say it and help them find the right audience.

Rage Against the Arts & Humanities…Again.

National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, NEA, NEH, Maine Arts Commission, City of Portland Public Art Committee, Creative Portland, Portland Symphony Orchestra, PORT Opera, Portland Stage Company, The Telling Room, Terra Moto Inc., University of Southern Maine

We are living in an age of rage, perpetrated by both ends of the political spectrum, and during which, we are about to launch another battle over the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Entrenched interest have trampled upon and fought over these agencies more than The Ardennes.

It’s hard to believe this nation’s cultural agencies were born from a united, bi-partisan vision; established not to solve a problem, but to help us create, expand, and care for our national patrimony. Every time a fortification of bipartisan support is built to ensure their existence, it is breached by those bent on finding a boogeyman, a fundraising mechanism, a wedge issue, or an Internet meme that can rally the crowd.

It’s easy to demonize federal agencies. They’re just more bureaucracy, filled with listless civil servants indifferent to taxpayer need, right? But what if the clichés are wrong? What if the agencies on the chopping block are actually bare bones, efficiently run, professionally staffed sources of transformative and catalytic funding that enhances communities and changes lives?

Here’s another “what if.” What if we stopped disparaging and dismissing public institutions that deserve celebration and investment instead?

For five years I served as Communications Director for the National Endowment for the Arts. Since leaving the NEA I have served on several NEA grant review panels. I chair an organization that receives NEA support. I have intimate, first-hand knowledge of how it works, and here’s what I know:

The federal employees at the NEA come to work every day dedicated to responsibly distributing funding to regional, state, and local arts agencies—the ones that contribute culturally and economically to our communities.

In the last five years, arts organizations in Maine received more than $5.4 million dollars in NEA funding. Arts organizations in Portland received just under a half million dollars. The Maine Arts Commission received more than $3.6 million—funding that was then re-granted to local arts organizations around the state. The catalytic effect of these dollars is indisputable.

Portland Ovations, a stalwart of Maine’s cultural community, and whose board I chair, received $155,000 in NEA funding during the last five years. In that time, Ovations has contributed $12.5 million to the greater Portland economy. That’s just one non-profit arts organization. Other Portland-area entities funded directly by the NEA include:

  • City of Portland Public Art Committee
  • Creative Portland
  • Portland Symphony Orchestra
  • PORT Opera
  • Portland Stage Company
  • The Telling Room
  • Terra Moto Inc.
  • University of Southern Maine

The NEA’s annual appropriation is only .004 percent of the federal budget. Defunding the NEA is not about the money. It’s about the symbolism.

There remains a segment of our citizenry—and political establishment—that is highly skeptical of any pronouncement that issues from the arts community concerning the necessity of public funding for art. It serves no purpose to debate why this is so, to argue over whether this skepticism is at all justifiable. It’s enough to recognize this distrust is out there, and it’s not uncommon for it to be held by people not necessarily ill disposed to the arts. Indeed, they may well be ardent supporters.

Within this segment are two camps, those who object to federal funding for the arts because they believe the non-profit arts should be left to sink or swim in the marketplace, and those who object because they believe that the NEA (and NEH) symbolize the reign of the elites over “the rest of us” at the taxpayer expense of all of us.

To both camps, defunding the NEA “sends a message.” Indeed, it does.

To the former argument, I offer language that Congress included in its “Declaration of Purpose” that accompanied the legislation authorizing the NEA and NEH: “While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the federal government to help create and sustain not only a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imagination, and inquiry, but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent.” Lifting non-profit arts from the market place is about understanding value versus price.

To the latter argument I offer the millions of children across the country and the thousands here in Maine who benefit from NEA supported arts and arts education programs. When Merrill Auditorium is filled with students clutching their free copy of a new book and enjoying their very first live performance at Portland Ovations or who realize they love music when hearing the Portland Symphony; when refugee children record their thoughts in a book at The Telling Room—in short, when lives are transformed by art, there is nothing elitist about it. Funding the NEA may be the most populist thing the federal government does, by making art accessible to all the people.

It’s disheartening to be fighting this battle again, especially when it’s presented as a false choice: pay for infrastructure and defense or pay for art. I worked at the Arts Endowment when a Republican president found a way to do both and enthusiastically signed into law a $21.1 million dollar increase for both the NEA and the NEH.

Despite the current climate in Washington, it’s my hope that Congress resists erroneous symbolism, and instead embraces the transformative power of art and our government’s rightful role in supporting it.

Felicia K. Knight is President of The Knight Canney Group, served as Communications Director for the NEA from 2003 – 2008 under Chairman Dana Gioia, and is President of the board of directors for Portland Ovations.

 

 

Portland Science Center Hosts Area Art Students for a talk with “Dinosaur Portfolio” Artist

Artist Philip Carlo Paratore talks with MECA students and others to reveal the inspiration and methods behind his unique exhibition

Dinosaur Portfolio, Portland Science Center, Dinosaurs Unearthed

PORTLAND, ME | FEBRUARY 28, 2017 – Since it opened in November 2016, thousands of New Englanders have experienced the Portland Science Center’s Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibition, a multi-media, interactive immersion in dinosaur discovery. As an added bonus, attendees have also been treated to an exhibition of work by adjunct University of Southern Maine art professor, Philip Carlo Paratore, whose “Dinosaur Portfolio” is evocative of the spirit of exploration and the science of discovery.

On Monday March 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Professor Paratore will lead Maine College of Art (MECA) students and others, on a journey through his “Dinosaur Portfolio” to reveal his inspirations and methods for creating his unique body of work.

He will also provide an “artists talk” at The Portland Science Center on Thursday, March 9 at 5 p.m. for the general public.

Dinosaur Portfolio, Portland Science Center, Dinosaurs UnearthedWhat makes dinosaurs such superlative expressions of nature? Their fossilized bones assembled for us in museums excite our imagination, reminding us of nature’s richness and creative exuberance. At this series of talks, art students will hear about the history of the Dinosaur Portfolio as well as how and why it came to be. Attendees also will have the opportunity to talk with Paratore about his goals and methods as an artist. Students will be invited to sketch dinosaur models from Dinosaurs Unearthed.

“Soon after I began working with dinosaur images, I realized how naturally they get us thinking about serious themes such as evolution, extinction, conservation and Time itself. Of course, everyone will get something a little different from my paintings, but that is the fun and beauty of art.”

Philip Carlo Paratore’s story begins as a ten-year old boy when his two favorite things to do were draw pictures of animals, especially dinosaurs, and take trips by subway to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. These early childhood experiences led eventually to a decades-long artistic venture known as The Dinosaur Portfolio, now being presented at The Portland Science Center.

Over the years, his interest in science, especially the Natural Sciences, increasingly influenced his work, both in and out of the classroom. It has also led to journeys to Stonehenge; the Paleolithic caves at Lascaux and Fonte de Gaume, Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, the Serengeti, archeological sites in Central America, and Pithecanthropus sites in Solo, Indonesia. Whether in his studio or in his travels, the primary goal is to make connections between contemporary art and natural science.

The Dinosaur Portfolio has been presented in art and science museums around the United States and Canada including The Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology at Alberta,Canada, The Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia, The Michener Museum of Art, The Morris Museum of Art, The Virginia Museum of Science and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. 

Downloadable photos & video of Dinosaurs Unearthed here

About the Portland Science Center

About The Gold Group (Portland Exhibitions, LLC)

 

Media Contact: Jill Valley-Orlando jill@knightcanney.com 808.271.3624

Portland Science Center 68 Commercial Street – Maine Wharf – Portland, ME

Five Christmas Clichés to Send Over the River and…You Know

Christmas cliches, Santa Claus, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Tis' the Season, The Knight Canney Group, public relations

We get it. It’s a busy time of year. You may be trying to get everything done so you can take time off over the holidays. Or maybe the client is insisting on a “funny parody” to promote an event or product. Whatever it is that’s pushing you toward any of these clichés, resist—and instead insist on a little more imagination. Be firm and say “no” to:

 

  1. Any parody of any line from “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Commonly referred to as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Clement Moore’s poem has been parodied to sell everything from mobile phone plans to men’s underwear. (Nothing says “Christmas” like a pitch to package the family jewels.)
  1. It’s beginning to look a lot like… We love Meredith Willson’s holiday song, but we don’t love it as an intro to the weather forecast or copy for a department store sale. It’s tired and uninspired. So, no. Just no. (And helpful tip: “a lot” in any context is two words: a and lot. Never alot.)
  1. The white stuff. While we’re mentioning weather, please just call it snow.
  1. The Grinch who stole… the money for the homeless shelter, the donated toys for tots, the wise men from the crèche—just fill in the blank. Sad stories all, made all the sadder by the same words we heard and read last year. And the year before.
  1. ’Tis the season. This is, hands down, the laziest of holiday copy writing. Whether it’s promotional, sales or news copy, anyone older than 12 who uses “’tis the season” is guilty of gross lack of imagination. ’Tis the season? ’Tis the reason you’re fired.

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, what a Grinch!” But no, we’re not stealing anything other than the opportunity for taking the easy way out in holiday copywriting. The principles that work all year round, work especially well during the holidays: tell a story, keep it simple, make it personal, know your audience.

One other helpful tip—no one actually likes fruitcake.

 

 

Dinosaurs Unearthed Opens at the Portland Science Center

*FIRST TIME IN NEW ENGLAND*

Exhibit of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, skeletons, and fossils

Added Attraction: Art exhibit by local artist Philip Carlo Patatore

Dinosaurs Unearthed, Portland Science Center

PORTLAND, ME | NOVEMBER 17, 2016 – For the ultimate “Throwback Thursday” Portland Science Center today announced that its exhibition of animatronic prehistoric life, Dinosaurs Unearthed, will open tomorrow.

Dinosaurs Unearthed is a multi-media, interactive immersion in dinosaur discovery. Its arrival at the Portland Science Center marks the first time this immensely popular exhibit has ever opened in New England.

The exhibit opens November 18, 2016 and will run through early Spring.

(For information on the exhibition and to purchase tickets, please visit portlandsciencecenter.com.)

“Thirteen of the dinosaurs are fully animatronic,” says Joe Gold, President of The Gold Group, which owns and operates The Portland Science Center. “The creators of these dinosaurs consult with paleontologists and researchers to ensure the most scientifically accurate result. The dinosaurs move smoothly and realistically—it’s really riveting.”

Powered by customized mechanical technology and a dynamic jointing system, the dinosaurs, ranging from a Velociraptor to a Triceratops to a juvenile T-Rex come to “life” in Dinosaurs Unearthed. The exhibit places each creature in naturalistic indoor landscapes and challenges our understanding of how dinosaurs lived, looked, and sounded in their pre-historic time. In relatively recent years, paleontologists have come to believe that some dinosaurs are the ancestors of modern birds—leading to the hypothesis that some dinosaurs may have been feathered.

“The exhibit includes a feathered Tyrannosaurus Rex,” added Gold. “This may be one of the most striking for people to see.”

An added, unique component at the Portland Science Center will be an exhibition of work by University of Southern Maine art professor, Philip Carlo Patatore, whose “Dinosaur Portfolio” is evocative of the spirit of exploration and the science of discovery.

In addition to the animatronic creatures, the exhibition will feature full-sized skeletons: a Yangchuanosaurus and a Tuojiangosaurus, as well as myriad simulated—and real—dinosaur fossils.

Dinosaurs Unearthed also features interactive stations such as a “Kids Dig Table” and “Dinosaur Digestion.”

Since the very first bones, teeth, and fossils were discovered, dinosaurs have fascinated humans. Dinosaurs Unearthed is designed to appeal to all ages.