Tag Archives: Fox Business Network
Hope Heyman has more than 25 years experience in corporate communications and public relations, specializing in media relations. She serves as the chief media strategist for a number of financial, corporate and health services companies as the senior vice president in Edelman’s New York Office.
Before entering public relations, Hope was a reporter and writer working for Institutional Investorâ€™s Wall Street Letter, where she covered the institutional equity side of the street, and the U.S. equity-oriented exchanges.
Talking Biz News discussed the current relationship between business journalists and public relations professionals with Heyman. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.
1. What do you think is the current relationship between PR people and business journalists?
I think it’s becoming a more distant relationship, at least for PR people working for agencies, with fewer face-to-face meetings or even phone calls as both PR practitioners and journalists communicate exclusively via e-mail. This diminished interaction is probably due to the rising work load for business journalists as more newspapers, business magazines and other hard-pressed print media cut back on the number of reporters, and reporters increasingly must meet the needs of a 24-hour cycle demanded by online news. The relationship between internal public relations professionals working for major corporations and the press remains mostly the same, with the top-tier media making a point of getting to know the internal PR people as the gateway to securing management interviews, and internal PR people making sure they have met, or are in touch with on a fairly regular basis, the reporters that cover their industry both in the trade and top-tier business media.
However, during the past two decades fewer journalists seem to be entering public relations as a second career, and fewer public relations firms are hiring practitioners with a journalism background, and I believe this trend has had a major impact on the relationships. This is a loss. Former reporters are particularly good at counseling clients on strategies involving how to put their best foot forward when approaching the media; and reporters sometimes find themselves being pitched by junior public relations people who don’t understand the needs and deadlines of the press.
I also find that fewer younger people overall (not just in public relations) actually read a newspaper unless they are required to do so. They prefer to “consume” their news online from papers’ websites, or Googling things, which leads to a lot of errors, and in my view helps to erode the distinctions between what makes a story important — front page above the fold — and what makes a good second day story, feature or follow-up story. What has not changed, unfortunately, is that media relations is not valued at many large public relations agencies. (I like to think that my agency is very different, with media relations considered a key skill at all levels, reflected in the considerable resources committed to both training junior staff and to hiring experienced practitioners.)
The responsibility to call the media is sometimes handed off to younger people with guidance or support — which is why extremely busy, experienced senior reporters working on deadline still receive annoying phone calls from youngsters asking, “Did you receive my press release?”
2. How could it be improved?
In terms of the media, I would say that a good story can come from anywhere — but good reporters already know that. Meetings and phone calls with experienced PR people is not a waste of time. Sometimes a good story results.
On the PR side, it’s clear that young people need to be better trained about how to approach journalists, and how to get them what they need when they are writing a story about a client. Too often the practice of media relations has been left to instinct vs. a more cohesive training approach with nurturing and coaching. Young people need to think in terms of “story” vs. a product pitch; and trends vs. “getting my client into print.”
It is also a PR person’s responsibility to know as much as possible about a client’s business or the field, even if the account is new, and get up to speed as quickly as possible, so he or she is not suggesting stories already well covered by the media. A PR professional should also try to get the press as much information as possible before any interview, and make best efforts to provide the press with desired interviews.
A PR person should not be afraid to say “I don’t know,” but the second part of that sentence should be “let me see what I can find out — what’s your deadline?”
3. When business journalists complain about not getting the information they need for a story from a company, do they often have a valid complaint?
Sometimes they do. Keep in mind, however, that public relations agencies/internal people are only as good as their corporate bosses. If the CEO or the head of marketing makes the decision not to release information, the PR advisor can try to persuade him or her, but ultimately has to line up with that corporate decision. I think Kurt Eichenwald’s Enron book, “Conspiracy of Fools,” illustrates the great efforts that some PR people make to convince management to release critical information and to be open and honest with the press, and how sometimes that advice is ignored to the detriment of the company, its shareholders and other stakeholders.
On the other hand, a good reporter should be able to find out much of what he or she needs to know by good old-fashioned reporting — picking up the phone, talking to sources, reading public documents, talking to industry competitors, executives who have left the company, etc. And some reporters still use an old reporter’s trick: call the CEO early in the morning before the assistant or other gatekeeper comes in and ask your questions. As a PR practioner, I’m not advocating that approach (always go through the PR person), but as a former reporter, I know it sometimes works.
4. What are some of the things that business journalists do that bother PR people?
Speaking as a PR practitioner, three things bother me the most: 1. only covering the largest companies, and disregarding good story ideas from companies they may not have heard of before or smaller companies; 2. In response to a pitch e-mail or call from me (not from my client), taking the story idea, but bypassing me completely and contacting the client directly, and 3. cleaving to the view that if a story idea originates from a PR person, it can’t be very good; is slanted; and not worthy of consideration.
At least to me, all other business journalist practices are fair game. I trust reporters’ mission to get it fast; get it right; and get it first.
5. Are they justified in doing some of those things?
In terms of not covering a story idea, I realize that the print news hole is shrinking, and the shrinking pool of reporters has to concentrate on the biggest story ideas — which generally apply to very large, publicly owned companies. But a few reporters do not take the time to consider a story idea, and do not have an open mind for new stories, or “stray” from conventional stories. It is also true that a PR professional is seeking favorable coverage for his or her clients, and so is, of course, pitching story ideas that focus on positive aspects of a client’s businesses. That doesn’t make a story any less newsworthy. (more…)
Frank Barnako of Marketwatch wonders Tuesday just exactly who will be watching the announced, but not yet airing, Fox Business Channel.
Barnako wrote, “What happens if the bull starts panting and runs out of steam? The “small investors” who have been writing down Cramer’s latest ‘Mon back’ or ‘Sell! Sell! Sell!’ and the guys from Jersey who have taken a shine to the musky men on ‘Fast Money’ may lose their enthusiasm when they find out markets go down, too. Execs and talent at CNBC have been there, seen that. Could happen again. The news won’t be much different of FBC (Fox Business Channel), so then you’d have two channels vying for a smaller audience.
“Neil Cavuto, Fox Business’ managing editor, thinks CNBC’s going after ‘old white guys with money.’ Who will be the Fox business channel’s target viewer? Young guys with two kids in elementary school who like to play ‘Are You Diversified’ between soccer practices? Doesn’t make sense. CNNfn tried to talk to an audience beyond white guys with money by beefing up personal finance information and profiling small businesses. Yawn. Unplugged.
“Fox is already doing business shows, touting that their ratings are higher than anything CNBC’s got, but the advertisers are not very classy. Some of them are cheesy. The most entertaining of the shows is Bulls & Bears is a shout fest of stock picks, presumably reflecting the same programming skills that a Fox business channel will. The show runs an awful lot of what-look-like per-inquiry ads for garden equipment that mulches anything in sight and odd gadgets like lights that go inside drawers. Cheap ads. Cheap stuff.”
Read more here.
Joakin Baage, writing on Digital Media Wire, likes what he’s heard so far about the new Fox Business Channel, but he wonders whether its strategy wll be as effective as CNBC in a recession.
Baage wrote, “So, from what I gather, I think a ‘pro-business’ channel is good positioning, but it will have obvious journalistic challenges in keeping a ‘balanced’ and distanced approach to the executives it will cover, as made obvious by the recent controversy surrounding CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo. While Fox Business News might navigate its way successfully around content issues and seem to seem to have a solid plan of what it wants to be, the main concern that remains is how launching an ‘old-media’ venture fits in with Rupert Murdochâ€™s rhetoric about News Corp. being focused on navigating its way through the new media revolution, where most of the advertising growth is right now.
“In fact, Rupert Murdoch has already predicted the fall of the networks – in their current form. As consumers increasingly are taking control of media, Murdoch has noted the need for a new breed of networks to form to cater to the way they want to consume and interact with media. It seems like Fox Business News is still very much a traditional television network.
“Perhaps News Corp is holding back its new media plans for the new business channel secret for competitive reasons, but I still expected more out-of-the-gate from the owners of MySpace. Right now, it seems like News. Corp is going to be playing this game on CNBCâ€™s analog court, rather than taking it to the next level on the much bigger digital field.”
Read more here.
Jonathan Berr, writing on bloggingstocks.com, makes the point that whether the upcoming Fox Business Channel is successful depends on how well it attracts viewers during slow business news days.
Berr, a former reporter for TheStreet.com and Bloomberg, wrote, “The real test for Fox Business News won’t be how it reports earnings, corporate scandals or mergers and acquisitions. It will be whether people tune in when the market is quiet.
“The Achilles heal for all-news networks, like Time Warner Inc.’s CNN, is that many people only want to watch them when there’s big news such as the death of Anna Nicole Smith, the president’s State of the Union speech or Hurricane Katrina. When it’s a slow news day, viewers go elsewhere.
“Part of the success of News Corp.’s Fox News is that people tune into ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ and ‘Hannity and Colmes’ when there’s nothing going on. Jim Cramer also attracts viewers to his show on General Electric Co.’s CNBC when the market is dull. (I used to work for TheStreet.com, which Cramer co-founded.).
“I am not sure whether people are going to be tuning into Neil Cavuto in droves, but the question investors need to ask is whether there is enough business to support a second cable business news network. CNBC’s struggles are well-known and other cable news channels have failed, but it still remains a decent money-maker.”
Read more here.
The News Corpse blog has an interesting take on the announcement last week that News Corp. would roll out its Fox Business Channel to compete with CNBC by the end of the year. What’s most troubling, this blog asserts, is the stated goal of being more friendly to business.
News Corpse wrote, “Financial news broadcasting is not an easy business to throw together. In 1991, FNN, the Financial News Network, went out of business, selling its assets to CNBC. More recently, Time, Inc.’s CNNfn couldn’t even get off the ground. New York mayor/billionaire, Michael Bloomberg’s network has about half the subscriber base of CNBC. Murdoch will launch with even less than that.
“Despite the obstacles, it’s clear why News Corp. would want to enter this market. Although CNBC’s ratings are low, they can charge more for their ads because they deliver an affluent and influential audience that is highly desirable and difficult to obtain. Fox covets both that audience and those advertisers. Their vertical business structure makes it easy for them to package ad campaigns so that they would benefit other Fox properties like their news network, broadcast network, station group, magazines, and newspapers. And since Fox doesn’t care if their reporting is accurate, so long as it’s “friendly,” corporate advertisers might be inclined to favor Fox with their ad dollars. Remember that the cable companies that would carry FBC, and the media companies that might report on them, are also corporations that may want to take advantage of the pro-business slant that Murdoch is offering.
“All of this produces some troubling scenarios. A business news network that promises to be friendly with its subjects is essentially serving as the PR arm of the corporations it covers. Consequently, those corporations that want to enjoy this coverage can show their appreciation by buying more ads. Conversely, the ad sales division of the network could pressure advertisers to pony up if they wanted good news to be included in the next broadcast. This sort of relationship is poisonous from the start, yet it is exactly what Murdoch is proposing.
“Another problem is that the existing business channels are going to be nervous about the impending competition with Fox. If they keep their heads about them, focus on the quality of their own product, and exhibit some measure of respect for journalistic ethics, then things should work out. But that isn’t how it’s gone down in the past. As Fox News began to challenge its predecessors, they folded like origami sheep. They concluded that the way to compete with Fox was to be more like Fox. That was a disastrous strategy that landed them squarely in Fox’ shadow.”
Read more here. And to all my grammar expert readers, note the slogan for this web site.
Anyway, Kevin Depew, writing the daily Five Things You Need to Know to Stay Ahead of the Pack on Wall Street column, has come up with a list of ways that Fox Business News can distinguish its coverage from rival business news channel CNBC when it launches later this year.
1. Bearish analysts referred to as communists.
2. CEO’s served complimentary caviar and champagne in green room.
3. Declining dollar? Burn the George Soros effigy doll!
4. Anchors will conclude each positive trading day by lighting up a giant “victory” cigar on air with a hundred dollar bill.
5. Fair and balanced air time given to both bulls AND superbulls.
6. And joining us now is the real Fed Chairman, Dick Cheney!
7. The phrase “white collar crime” replaced with the phrase “CEO shenanigans.”
8. Once a quarter, before market opens, Roger Ailes will appear live on camera and eat a poor person.
Read more here.
James Poniewozik, Time’s TV and media critic, examined comments made by News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch this week when he announced the launch of the Fox Business Channel criticizing CNBC for being anti-business and wonders whether he truly understands the difference between business news and other types of news.
Poniewozik wrote on his Tuned In blog, “I’m not sure this approach is going to sell for Murdoch this time. It’s true, other CEOs, like Murdoch, may be irked by antagonistic business coverage and may long for a more adulatory news channel. But that’s not enough viewers to keep a network afloat. A business channel also serves regular news consumers and, above all, investors. And what investors want most is information they can make money off of, whether it’s business-friendly or business-hostile or business-neutral.
“In this sense, covering business is not like covering politics. There are millions of news viewers you can please by flattering their worldview. For an investor, though, a stock is either going to go up or go down, and a lot of money hangs on anticipating which way it’s going to go. A stock price or exchange rate is an objective number, not subject to debate and contention like, say, gay marriage. And business news that’s programmed on the basis of what will keep CEOs happiest won’t keep viewers happy for long if it overlooks information–say, the ‘scandals’ that Murdoch chides CNBC for emphasizing–in a way that causes viewers to lose money.
“Murdoch is a smart businessman and programmer, and I’m surprised he wouldn’t see this. (Maybe his judgment’s been clouded by one too many mean articles in the media.) It’s one thing to sell political news by appealing to viewers’ sense of ‘balance.’ But the market really is a no-spin zone.”
Read more here.
Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News writes that the applications for jobs at the newly announced Fox Business Channel are flooding in from CNBC employees, according to an interview with Fox News head Roger Ailes.
Reynolds wrote, “Ailes said staffing up would be a top priority in the months ahead. ‘Weâ€™re looking at a few hundred people in terms of production and talent,’ he said, noting that heâ€™d received a ‘flood of resumes’ from CNBC employees. ‘Weâ€™re considering building a separate entrance to the building for them.’
“Currently on board: Fox News executive vice president Kevin Magee who will have daily oversight of the service; and director of business news Alexis Glick, who will also have an on-air presence.
“Asked about profitability, Ailes said the timeline for Fox News to break even was five years. For Fox Business Channel, he said that operating level would come within three to four years. ‘It took five years for Fox News to pass CNN; it wasnâ€™t an overnight success,’ he said. ‘Weâ€™re thinking weâ€™ll have to pass through the wilderness here, too.’”
Read more here.
Marketwatch media writer Frank Barnako muses that the newly announced Fox Business Channel will come after some of the talent at rival business cable news network CNBC.
Barnako wrote, “If you’re working at CNBC and don’t have an agent yet, get one now. The 45th richest man in the world is shopping for talent.”
Later, he added, “Having worked in broadcast newsrooms, I can only imagine the intrigue at GE’s money channel. It’s all supply and demand, as the anchors and reporters know, and frequently report. Over the years, CNBC has put the spotlight on many of them and given them more than 15 minutes of fame. That makes them ‘stars’ to many viewers, and ‘supply’ for Fox’s demand.
“Neil Cavuto, senior vice president and managing editor of business news at Fox, was hired away from CNBC about eight years ago. He still has friends and favorites over there. You can bet his voice mailbox is full.”
Read more here.
News Corp. finally issued a press release Thursday afternoon stating that its Fox Business Channel would hit the airwaves in the last three months of this year.
The release stated, “Presently, FOX Business Channel has 30 million subscribers under contract after securing distribution agreements with multiple cable operators, including: Time Warner; Comcast; Charter, and Direct TV. The network, which will be housed at News Corporation headquarters in midtown Manhattan, is expected to launch in major markets across the country, including the worldâ€™s financial capital â€” New York â€” where it will be seen on expanded basic cable.
“In making the announcement, [News Corp. CEO Rupert] Murdoch said, ‘We have long considered the business television market to be underserved. Having built FOX News into a cable news leader and a cultural phenomenon against all expectations, Iâ€™m confident that Roger Ailes and his team can do the same in business news. I look forward to introducing new competition and a new voice to the business news arena.’”
Marketwatch media writer Jon Friedman interviewed Neil Cavuto, who will oversee the network, about the announcement and wrote late Thursday that the new channel will be vastly different from CNBC.
Friedman said, “Cavuto didn’t discourage me, either, when I speculated that Fox’s version of business news would probably look very different from CNBC’s corporate-oriented package. When news about the Federal Reserve or a Fortune 500 company breaks, CNBC regularly showcases the headline-maker.
“Sure, Fox will air interviews with its share of chieftains, too, but I suspect that it will try a broader approach than CNBC’s usual offerings. It would be no surprise if Fox focused on interpreting the news for the nation’s huge individual-investor crowd, recognizing that CNBC, a unit of General Electric has left this market somewhat untapped. Will we see a New York Post-style business-news network? Stay tuned.”
And I love this quote from Cavuto: “We’re going to be a channel for America — not for old white men with money,” Cavuto told me. “We want to reach women, minorities, young people.”