Two news events have dominated headlines recently. They’re both startling, although for completely different reasons. Perhaps even more startling, however, are the reactions we’ve seen from the public and the media. Both create questions when it comes to media engagement.
First is Syria. On August 21, it seems – from all available evidence – that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people. Regardless of your opinions on whether or what kind of action the United States should take, it’s hard to argue that the act itself wasn’t immensely disturbing, upsetting and heartbreaking.
The second is twerking and its rise to the top thanks to Miley Cyrus. On August 25, just days after Syria news took off, Ms. Cyrus’s shaking, gyrating dance moves at MTV’s Video Music Awards (for propriety’s sake, I’ll let you conduct your own search!) catapulted her to the top of the headlines. The word even gained entry into that famed institution, the Oxford English Dictionary.
So, what’s been more popular with the public and the media? It’s hard to say without a deeper dive into things like how many minutes broadcast outlets have devoted to the topic, or the total amount of articles that newspapers have written.
However, a look at Wikipedia offers some interesting, and frightening, perspective:
- Over the past month, the Syrian Civil War article has been viewed just over 900,000 times
- The amount of views for Twerking over that same period? More than double, at over 2 million, and the 309th most-searched page on Wikipedia
How about over the past day, as President Barack Obama prepares to address the nation on Syria, and Jimmy Kimmel’s fooled everyone, especially the media, about the epic “Twerk Fail” of 2013 that “set the internet on fire?”
- Syrian Civil war: 43,500 page views
- Miley Cyrus: 62,606 page views
You can make any number of arguments for why twerking may be more popular, or at least more viral, than what’s happening in Syria. But when MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and ABC’s The View all talk about twerking as if it’s major news, communicators and PR pros must ask themselves what this means for media engagement over the long-term. And as someone who works with health care clients whose stories are much less sexy and more difficult to tell, these are the questions I’m asking:
- How can we continue to help media, who are ever-pressed for time and determined to get big traffic for articles, to break down complex stories into simple concepts?
- Are we thinking in pictures and videos, not just in words, and constantly pushing clients to create and deploy strong visual content for the media?
- What kind of links can we help journalists make between health care issues and challenges and the stories that are already trending with consumers?
We probably(and unfortunately, in my view) can’t put an end to twerking forever, but we can keep working to make sure that more important stories get the attention they deserve.