Saturday, January 08, 2005

Distraction & opportunity

A White House news briefing starts with detail about the Tsunami. Obviously, this disaster is not their biggest priority. But it's well understood by publicists that a natural catastrophe is a gift from heaven for the mendacious and powerful. With a tracking analysis, we could calculate the resulting shadow effect, that is, the effectiveness of the distraction.

It's just as interesting to measure the attempted distraction, the effort to focus attention elsewhere. The attempt is not necessarily as effective as the PR staff would like it to be. But you can measure the effort, separately from the effect.

In this briefing, the publicist manages to discuss the tsunami for roughly 3/4 of the time. In addition, he relates some trivial news, dances around a minor scandal (the subject is publicity), and repeats some talking points about Iraq. This doesn't give the reporters anything of interest, but it lets them file a story or two about the disaster, and finish their day's work. Most importantly, for the publicity strategists, it gives reporters some material about the tsunami efforts, and nothing about military policy. And nothing about health, work, happiness and other major issues effected every day by Federal policy.

Look at the spread of activity as measured by the federal budget, and the white house budget. The proportional dedication to those activities, and the proprtional discussion at press briefings, is hugely mismatched. This is measurable, and important. It shows that the activity of government is basically unrelated to public presentations. An index of this difference could be made for each press briefing, automatically. Announcing the differences, in a timely manner, might have an effect.


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