Sunday, December 16, 2012

Associations and Urban Myths

Some stories stick. Even when they are not true. 

If the myth negatively impacts your association or your members, it spells problems.

Two examples of holiday myths surfaced this month: 

MYTH: Suicides Spike During Holiday Months (November, December, January)
REALITY: The months of November, December and January actually have the lowest number of suicides per day, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, which analyzed 1999-2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It found that averages were highest in the spring and summer. (See USA Today ... Holiday suicide myth persists, research says.)  

The center, which has tracked the media's reporting of suicides since 2000, looked at stories that linked suicides and the holidays. In 1999, 77% of those stories said, erroneously, that suicides increased over the holidays. The proportion of stories that supported that myth dropped after the center's analysis came out, but rose again last year to 76%.

MYTH: Poinsettias Are Poisonous to People & Pets
REALITY: Research shows poinsettias are not poisonous to either. Disproven years ago by Ohio State research, the myth persists. In 1971, researchers tested the toxicity of poinsettias by blending a solution from parts of poinsettia plants and feeding it to rats. Reporting their findings in the journal Toxicon, the researchers concluded that rats, “when given extraordinarily high doses of various portions of the poinsettias, show no mortality, no symptoms of toxicity, nor any changes in dietary intake or general behavior pattern." The myth may have arisen from an unsubstantiated report in 1919 of a small child who died after chewing on a poinsettia leaf. 

If the media (or a blogger) posts a myth about your industry or profession, what should you do?
  • First, your association should have a crisis communications plan. If so, you can implement it; if not, get one now.
  • Remembering that an unanswered lie becomes the truth in 24 seconds, respond immediately. Your response should be posted on your website and to all your social media platforms. You should get it to the media electronically and/or via Twitter. 
  • As David Meerman Scott writes in The New Rules of Marketing and PR, news/information is now Real Time. And, Real Time is a mind set ... that is needed for associations today.
In their book Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath offered six powerful principles for association content, information and communications. If you want your messages to stick, follow them. Here is my “short-hand version” of the six principles:

      Principle  =    Result
#1 Simplicity = Finding the essential core of your ideas
#2 Unexpectedness = Paying attention to your ideas
#3 Concreteness = Becoming clear about your ideas
#4 Credibility = Believing your ideas
#5 Emotions = Caring about your ideas
#6 Stories = Acting on your ideas

So, create a story that is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and you’ll have more success!
Following these six principles – in crisis or regular communications – will enhance your association’s communications with members, prospects and/or the media.

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