I know I’ve discussed this subject before, but a recent story involving the Milwaukee Police Department and an arrest of a citizen suspected of operating while intoxicated (OWI) brought back to the forefront (at least in my mind) the perils of disengaging from the news media.
Those who know me, have worked with me or are regular readers of ReputationForward, know that I am a big proponent of being a part of “the conversation.” Smartly and strategically for sure, but the communications landscape of the 21st century leaves us with no option other than to engage with the media and increase the likelihood that our messages will be heard.
However, the code of silence adhered to by many organizations–not just businesses–was on full display earlier this week as the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) tried to dodge bullet after bullet (so to speak) from the media regarding a video of police officers engaged in the traffic stop in question. The officers appeared to have the suspect on the ground and subdued, but continued to beat the man around the head and neck.
The local news media, of course, was seeking comment from the MPD, which chose to remain silent, ignoring continual queries from reporters whose subsequent stories made observations such as “still no word from the Milwaukee Police Department.” After four news cycles had come and gone, MPD commented on the incident. Of course, reporters couldn’t resist throwing in words and phrases such as “finally” and “at last” when describing the tardiness of MPD’s comment.
The lesson learned may be an old one, but it bears repeating, especially in the light of the MPD’s experience during the past week: Participate in the conversation. If you don’t make your point, the media will make it for you.