Is Bad Press Better Than No Press?
I’d like to post an op-ed piece which our News Editor, John T. Smith, has recently released to a number of newspapers around the world. This is an effort to catalyse some useful discussion about the direction the men’s movement has been taking in some places, and is not intended as a criticism of any group in particular. Obviously, the Fathers-4-Justice play a large rÃ´le in recent press coverage in the U.K., but they are not alone in having raised the eyebrows of press and public alike.
We believe this is an important issue, and invite comments and ideas from all camps of opinion, whether posted here or on the World Fathers Union weblog, The Father’s Tale.
Over to you, John T.–
Is Bad Press Better Than No Press?
by John T. Smith, News Editor, World Fathers Union
In recent weeks, various organisations working for equitable treatment for fathers in family courts have garnered a satisfyingly large amount of press coverage in a short time. I say satisfyingly large, because how can we not feel pleased that the press are paying attention to us, no matter what they are actually saying? I have seen a baker’s dozen of stories cross my desk in the last two days, all from major media outlets in the U.K., New Zealand, and North America.
But there’s a somewhat questionable bun in that basket: We’re getting attention, yes…but what will be the general sentiment of the public as a result? In MontrÃ©al, a distraught father who had not seen his child in seven years climbed a billboard next to a major bridge and the resulting traffic snarls and commuter ire became the story of the week, being heard as far away as Texas, in the southern U.S. In London, a live telecast of the lottery drawing was interrupted by F4J protestors, including a woman. In Christchurch, The Father’s Coalition distributed pamphlets identifying divorce lawyers and staff of the family court to their neighbours, bringing down the wrath of the local bar association and generating distinctly unfriendly coverage in The Press of that city.
An old nostrum of advertising and marketing is that ‘any press is good press’. The theory upon which this is based is that the product name will stick in the consumer’s mind long after any annoyance or distrust generated by idiotic commercials or bad publicity has faded. And since most consumers buy things by reflex instead of by conscious action, as long as that product name sticks in mind, the product will jump off the shelves into their market baskets.
But are public policies ‘products’ that the people ‘buy’? A public affairs consultant or political manager would tell you ‘yes’. But he would also tell you that eighty- to eighty-five percent of voting decisions are based on ‘brand loyalty’ to a particular political party. Winning an election is often (almost always, actually) a matter of whacking up the remaining fifteen to twenty percent of ‘undecided’ voters in a manner advantageous to one’s candidate. And those voters do not ‘buy’ their governments by reflex action; they are the ones who think long and hard about it, agonising right up to the moment of pulling the lever or marking the X on the ballot. For these voters, publicity which leaves a sour taste in the mouth has a very real influence upon whom they choose to entrust with power.
At the same time, it’s difficult to deny that it is important to maintain the issue of family court reform in the public eye. Political parties do not put planks in their platforms unless they see some electoral advantage to themselves in doing so. Politicians have to make promises to get elected…but they know in advance they will have to break most of them later on. To minimise the consequent recriminations, therefore, the rule of thumb is to make as few clear promises as possible. No issue that is not constantly making the news in a big way stands a chance when the proverbial cigar-chompers meet in that mythic smoke-filled back room….
For those of us ‘in the movement,’ what to think about these sorts of tactics is becoming an important question. We have to consider how they help enemies of family court reform continue to brand all men as deranged, obsessed, violent creatures; we also have to consider how they help to keep the important issues we need to address firmly in the public eye. We would be interested in the opinions of all who read this article or visit our website (http://www.worldfathersunion.com/). Difficult questions such as this one are better answered when many points of view are heard.
Without either condoning or condemning their tactics, World Fathers Union maintains hyperlinks to many different fathers’ groups on our website, and we are adding more all the time. We welcome any organisation working for family court reform to become Institutional Affiliates of the Union, even though we may not agree on tactics. We believe very strongly that the fathers’ rights movement is weaker than it could be because it is so splintered. There are literally thousands of groups worldwide, but few work together with any of the others.
That is one of the prime mandates of this Union. We do not aim to control any group or dictate tactics, policies, or anything else. But we hope to help incite useful discussion about important questions, and coordinate joint action among groups worldwide so that a stronger and more positive impression may be made each time men speak out, in whatever way they choose to do so.
A day may come when the courage of men fails…
But it is not this day
The World Fathers Union charges no dues, and solicits no donations. Neither do we engage in any other form of fundraising. We do not collect any private information about members except an e-mail contact address,and we maintain absolute confidentiality with regard thereto.World Fathers Union, PO. Box 278 Yarmouth, NS B5A 4B2 CANADA?