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The Power of Negative News


“Negative news have an impact” I was told once. It was during the presentation of a global image study for my employer, a multinational corporation with one of the most valuable brands in the world. That was the first time I saw how negative news, even when they are false, lead to negative views. Up to that moment, my magical thinking went like this: if I don’t believe in negative news, they don’t exist; a little like Peter Pan. It’s a natural belief, explained in part by W. Phillips Davidson’s “third person” theory. When we miss information about others, we assume they think like us. This is one of the 27 communication theories in the Public Relations Society of America’s accreditation exam, which I recommend to every professional in this trade.

Many of these communication theories were based on the results of U.S. presidential elections. For instance, the “framing” theory is one of my favorite ones, very well explained by linguist George Lakoff in his book Don’t Think of an Elephant! published after George W. Bush won his second term in 2004. I recommended this book to my Argentine friends who were inconsolable after the 2015 election results in that country. The idea was avoiding the rival’s framing and develop one’s own. Today that I live Hillary’s defeat in the U.S. election, I realize how hard it is to follow my own recommendation. Apologies guys! It is my duty to explain this year’s election in the U.S. without talking about Trump.

“This is not a crisis, it’s an issue,” one of my bosses always told me. It was the post-crisis Argentina and I would call him with certain regularity asking for his help with the fires I faced at the time. I once again saw the difference studying “issue management” this year. Crisis management is a public relations practice in rapid growth. The reason is just the growth of damage risk to reputation due to the proliferation of news on the Internet. Risk management is identifying the issues that may trigger a crisis and methodically eliminate their underlying causes before they emerge. For example, if reputation is at stake due to the publication of certain emails, we may mitigate the risk by publicizing the messages in a controlled manner in our own terms. We thus avoid a crisis due to the revelation of new messages ten days before the elections, we prevent negative news that hurt reputation, and we focus on setting our own framework of reference on freedom, equality and the environment.

It’s easy to say after the election! To say it sooner, we need more accredited professionals.

Victor Aimi




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