Based in Chicago, the GreenTarget Global Group traces its roots to 2004 — and there from nearly beginning, Lisa Seidenberg has made invaluable contributions as the company has grown into a five-office juggernaut of professional services PR.
As the latest of our spotlight PR professionals in the Qwoted 100, Seidenberg, who is GreenTarget’s Director Of Media Relations, graduated Indiana University at Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and went on to receive a master’s in integrated marketing communications from Roosevelt University. Beyond the academic smarts, Seidenberg is described by her GreenTarget peers as “a sharpshooter” who “has gone on to relentlessly deliver high-quality media results for clients.”
Here, Seidenberg shares some of the strategies and secrets she puts to use in making media relations magic.
Qwoted: You’ve been at the forefront of GreenTarget’s efforts to confront and address “fake news.” Tell us about that, and the insights you’ve gained.
Seidenberg: Some news outlets prioritize clicks over accurate reporting and falsehoods are flung across social media, and we have watched these trends with equal parts fascination and unease. Even as the news media’s credibility is questioned, we continue to believe thought leaders benefit from media relations. We also believe the PR profession should support credible journalism in these turbulent times.
Last year, we created a pledge for how communications professionals can help fight false news. First, it says, we support the work of reporters and editors. We stress ethics and transparency. We strongly discourage lying to journalists or putting forth sources that aren’t credible. We vow to always fact-check our work, knowing that sending unverified information to reporters can lead to the spread of falsehoods. Further, we pledge to only provide insights that a journalist’s audience will care about. And we commit to broadening media literacy.
In our 2020 report, 85 percent of journalists surveyed said they had an ethical responsibility to vet and identify misleading information. This year, 93 percent of journalists said they bear this responsibility. But just 14 percent said their own efforts significantly help stem the spread of false information.
Just 35 percent of journalists surveyed said media-literacy efforts have had a high or moderate effect in helping counter fake news. About 20 percent said such efforts had no effect.
This differs from other research out there, including a report that found that media literacy intervention “improved discernment between mainstream and false news headlines” by 27 percent.
Qwoted: Nonetheless, media-literacy efforts are popping up across the country. Tell us what you see.
Seidenberg: Last year, a report found that 14 states had taken substantial legislative action to teach some form of media literacy to all K-12 students. In 2021, Illinois became the first state in the nation to mandate media literacy be taught in all public high schools. Colorado lawmakers enacted legislation this year to create online media-literacy resource materials that school teachers can use.
We find these efforts encouraging and hope journalists and the public will get behind them. We also believe the PR profession should find ways to help teach the next generation of Americans to differentiate falsehoods from credible news.
Qwoted: What do you think you do that other PRs could learn from?
Seidenberg: Known by clients and colleagues as the “guardians of the lost art of media relations,” we at GreenTarget are keeping a close watch on the changes to the media landscape and adapting as need be. However, more often than not, we’ve found that staying true to the principles and approaches that we’ve had since our company’s founding is the best approach for our firm and our clients.
At our core, we believe successful earned media campaigns are about aligning our client’s business objectives with communications goals. This means finding clients the right platform to get the messages in front of the right people. We pride ourselves on offering journalists reputable spokespeople who add value to their stories — which, in turn, forges strong relationships with these journalists who return to us time and time again. It is through this process that clients get the third-party validation they need that can turn a quote into a measurable sales impact.
Qwoted: How does PR in 2022 square with the future of journalism?
Seidenberg: If there’s one takeaway from our 2021 Fake News Survey, it’s that no one journalist, editor or media organization can beat back the tide of fake news alone — and we see this as a big takeaway for the future of journalism. In fact, according to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer, it’s businesses –- and, to a lesser degree, NGOs –- that should help provide societal stability in an era when media and government are viewed as increasingly divisive.
For instance, business’ trust score is 61, government’s is 52, and media’s is 50. More people trust their own employer than their government or news sources, and the majority of respondents now want business leaders to speak up about societal issues.
At GreenTarget, we believe that business leaders who see the need to speak up should do so by developing effective positions of authority. That means speaking on timely, relevant issues that executives are experts in; crafting distinct points-of-view and/or tangible guidance that provides utility; participating intelligently in ongoing media conversations; and supporting or supplementing trusted news outlets, journalists and editors with expert commentary and insights.
Their role is to supplement and support traditional journalism and add expertise to important discussions –- bolstering journalists’ efforts, when appropriate. And when they do participate, they shouldn’t just follow consensus or add to the noise.
There may be no one-size-fits-all solution to fake news, which is why now is not the time to be short-sighted or, worse, cynical. More than ever, we all have a responsibility to play a part in providing and supporting credible, quality news people can trust.
Qwoted: What advice would you give to those seeking to find an effective PR person?
Seidenberg: Intellectual curiosity, empathy, trust, and grit. These are the key elements anyone looking to get into the PR field should possess.
Qwoted: What is your golden rule of PR?
Seidenberg: Appreciate the privilege you have every day protecting your client’s greatest asset (their reputation) and the honor you have influencing those whose whose writing impacts society (reporters).