X-Message-Number: 7362
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 1996 10:01:51 -0500 (EST)
From: Charles Platt <>
Subject: News Management

On Fri, 27 Dec 1996, Steve Bridge wrote:

>      First, I should point out that neither "Synthetic Pleasures" nor 
> "Immortality on Ice" nor ANY of the other 200 or so media appearances 
> connected with Alcor in the past 4 years were *controlled* by Alcor.  
> That's not the way journalism and entertainment work.

I beg to differ (slightly) with Steve.

First, corporations customarily try to promote their viewpoint with that 
trusty tool, the press release. Since journalists are basically lazy and 
almost always working under deadline pressure, they are always happy to 
transcribe press releases. Even revered papers such as the NYTimes do 
this constantly.

Second, any organization can CREATE news. Suppose a cryonics organization
has a research breakthrough; it can choose the mode in which it will allow
this news to be disseminated, via press releases, journalists who are
known to be sympathetic, videos, carefully controlled demos, etc. (Didn't
Alcor itself do something like this with the Visser rat-heart demo?) The
Federal Government takes this kind of news management to an extreme, with
carefully placed leaks to journalists who know that if they don't
cooperate, their sources will dry up. 

Third, even when the story originates with the journalist (rather than
inside the cryonics organization), some management is possible. I
experienced an extreme version of this when I wrote a story about
Microsoft. A PR person accompanied me during all the interviews that I did
at the corporate headquarters, and TOOK COPIOUS NOTES, which was a polite
way of indicating that she would be checking my story for accuracy. Her
presence also served to remind my interviewees that they too were being
monitored; this is standard practice in many corporations. Moreover, I
discovered that all of my interviewees were circularized beforehand with a
two-page memo listing things that they should talk about, and should not
talk about, during my visit. 

Finally of course a company can promote itself with time-honored 
"newsworthy" publicity stunts: contests, giveaways, ground-breaking 
ceremonies, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and all the rest.

The question is whether these techniques are appropriate to cryonics. I
used to think they were, but now I am not so sure. Since cryonics, like
insurance, sells a promise, not a product, trust is crucial. Do we really
want to emulate Microsoft or the Federal Government if we're in the
business of creating trust?! Openness, rather than tightly controlled news
management, seems more important to me, especially since (at this stage in
its evolution anyway) cryonics appeals primarily to individualistic types
who think for themselves. After the Discovery Channel show on cryonics, I
actually received some phone calls from prospective members--even though
CryoCare wasn't included in that program. These people could have just
tracked down Alcor (e.g. via 800 number information) but instead they went
to their web browsers and visited the web sites of ALL available cryonics
organizations. So long as we're selling cryonics to people like these,
news management isn't going to be easy or productive. 

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