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Snowpocalypse is Coming

Andrew Cross

Will our grandchildren read about the day America survived the Snowpocalypse? If you listen to the news coming out of any city north of Phoenix, you’d be inclined to believe they’ll not only read it, but pass the epic tale on to their grandchildren as well.

But if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days – and I hope you’ve found a good one; you might have requests for roommates as civilization collapses in the next 72 hours – you haven’t heard about what some in the media are labeling as one of the worst storms in a century. The latest reports show it affecting 100 million people, and 30 states have issued advisory warnings. Some states are preparing for nearly 2 feet of snow.

For a reason I simply cannot understand, the media insist on delivering the news to me in ALL CAPS AND BOLD RED FONT, which had previously been reserved for Exit signs, bumper stickers and e-mails sent circa 1997.

Perhaps I would be more eager to drive in a frenzy to the store to stock up on bottled water, peanut butter, Band-Aids and whatever else people buy in these situations had the National Weather Service’s October prediction of the WORST CHICAGO STORM IN 70 YEARS not been a complete farce. You remember, when the icy waters of Lake Michigan were supposed to rise up in a tumultuous cyclone and break Lake Shore Drive like a toothpick? When the winds were going to be so strong that they’d pick up your children and pets and send them flying through the air with hurricane force? To say the storm didn’t quite pan out would probably be the BIGGEST UNDERSTATEMENT IN 70 YEARS.

I can’t help but wonder if this storm will turn out the same way.

So what can public relations professionals learn from the biggest, baddest, most massive, monster, life-threatening disaster (those words were all pulled from news headlines) in years?

Namely, not to cry wolf.

PR pros should understand that not every new product is “life changing,” “groundbreaking,” “earth shattering” or “wave making.” While honesty and ethics remain a central focus of most organizations’ PR efforts, modesty is falling by the wayside. It’s already absent from advertising, as anyone who’s ever seen a car commercial can attest to.

A certain degree of modesty should be present in every pitch. Every new product isn’t the greatest thing since the iPod, and every new partnership won’t cure a terrible disease.

Media relations professionals, particularly those who work within a relatively small market niche and target the same editors and reporters, should take note. Editors receive – pardon the pun – a flurry of news releases, pitches and other materials on a daily basis, so the ones with exaggerated claims aren’t going to make the cut.

Only a relevant topic packaged honestly and carefully has a chance of finding its way to the desks of a few influential editors. That is, if they can find them under all the snow.