“Green shoots,” said the person being inteviewed in response to why he believed the economies of the world are recovering. What he meant was favorable indicators. But “green shoots” is better journalese.

Perhaps the best education I ever received was as the Managing Director of Hill and Knowlton Turkey, a joint venture of what is generally recognized to be the original public relations firm. What one learns in that business is not what is news, but what is the flow and tenor of the news. You learn how to bend the news, shape it, block it, guide it, alter it.

You walk into any PR firm and one thing you will see instantly, several televisions always tuned on to all the major news channels. They are being monitored to know what is news and where it is going.

Back to “green shoots.” How do you influence the news and mold it? In this case “favorable indicators” is about as appetizing as starch. But “green shoots” brings an image of fresh meadows, a forest with new leaves, new buds on the rose bush, all of these very favorable ideas. You take starch and make a banquet. Instead of leaving the viewer with a continued bleak outlook of the future, you give him hope and raised expectations.

Each project has its unique needs but there are some standard tactics. One is to put out a good news story to counter bad news. When the headline is “Local Firm Pollutes The Environment,” you put out a story about how it employs 1000 people.

Of course it is easy when you are on the “right” side of a controversy. The real trick is to promote the “bad” side.

Take the present struggle in Iran. One international TV news source characterized those supporting Ahmadinejad as being ” brain washed kids bussed in from the countryside.” At the same time it talked about one young woman protesting the election results as being a “martyr to the cause of freedom.” Neither item is news but a way of guiding the viewer.

As for Iran, I wonder what the situation would be if Mousavi had won against Ahmadinejad. Would Ahmadinejad’s followers be in the streets in a nasty mood. You betcha.

Yes I earned my “doctorate,” I became a “Spin Doctor.”

Leo Cecchini
June 2009