Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Who Exactly is the OC Watchdog Biting?

We’ll get to that bikini photo in a minute, but first, let’s all wish the OC Watchdog blog  in the OC Register a happy third birthday – even if it has caused many Laer Pearce & Associates clients and lots of others a fair amount of heartburn.  The blog’s mission has been to write on “your tax dollars at work” – or, more specifically, “when your tax dollars aren’t working particularly well, in our opinion,” so we all have come to know what to expect when Teri or one of the other Watchdogs calls.

Watchdog’s obsession with public employee salaries (in part because the data is now readily available via the California Controller) has created a need for clear and strong messages, but we need to remember that we live in an era of transparency, so these articles are to be expected.  This is what the media does, and as traditional media fight for profitability, it’s what they’ll do more and more.  That’s why we counsel full and frank disclosure – along with making sure the Watchdog folks get additional analysis for perspective, like the salaries of private sector counterparts.

But here’s what we really have to celebrate on Watchdog’s third birthday – and it’s what we’ve suspected all along: All those articles on public sector salaries haven’t really created huge ripples.

The proof is in Watchdog’s birthday party post, which includes a list of the top ten Watchdog articles over the last three years, based on total number of clicks the articles receive.  Not one of the top ten has anything to do with public employee salaries.  Ferrets and DA fiances rank higher, as did (not surprisingly) consultants in bikinis. (It was a tough choice between the ferret and the consultant for this post’s illustration, but we figured the bikini pic would lead to more random Google hits.)

All this is not to say public agencies should be cavalier about the sort of coverage OC Watchdog provides – but it does mean you should approach your next inquiry from them with the proper perspective, and that shouldn’t involve sweat dripping off your palms.  Calm down, gather your thoughts and supporting information, and go forth with pretty darn good assurance the resulting post won’t be the end of the world.

The blog’s birthday brings to mind one of the key public relations and public affairs messages we preach: It’s important to establish your own media, because you can’t depend on others’ media to tell your story as you’d like. You’d rather talk about the good your agency does, the money it saves, the people it helps – but the mainstream media will always be more interested in your mistakes and misspending.

Blogs, eblasts, social media, brochures, websites, newsletters, direct mail pieces,  public outreach – these are your media and they will tell your story better than anyone.  But are they?  An audit of the effectiveness of your media is the first step toward finding out, so you might want to give us a call.

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5 Responses to “Who Exactly is the OC Watchdog Biting?”

  1. July 21st, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Teri Sforza says:

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, Laer.

    And please let your clients know that we WANT to hear how they’re saving folks money and doing a new job, and how that is part of our Third Birthday Celebration.

    And their palms need not sweat when they contact us! We bark, but rarely bite.

    Email, as always, is best. Let’s hear those good news stories, folks!

  2. July 21st, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Teri Sforza says:

    Oh, and those 10 posts listed are for the past year only, not the past five years.

  3. July 22nd, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Don’t be afraid of OC Watchdog, PR guy tells officials - OC Watchdog - The Orange County Register says:

    [...] posted by Teri Sforza, Register staff writer Tweet Share We’re flattered that OC Watchdog’s third birthday was noted by Laer Pearce & Associates, public affairs/crisis/media consultant to government types (who have apparently not enjoyed our [...]

  4. July 22nd, 2011 at 10:57 am

    LP&A says:

    Thanks, Teri. I’m a journalism grad because I believed then and still believe now in the critical role of a free press to a functional democracy. You’re more in synch with that role than are a lot of reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post, who have political agendas rather than good governance agendas. There’s a huge difference!

  5. September 26th, 2011 at 10:36 am

    b says:

    Hello LP&A,

    A little more FYI for you, regarding Teri. My Fiance’ works for MWD and we have found many misleading facts that Teri has put out in her articles. The Liberal OC has pointed them out, also.
    Since we started challenging Teri and her regulars on the threads behind the story, Teri has banned my email address from posting on her threads.
    As a child, I was told in school that when the press prints something, that it has to be true. That is what my Fiance’ uses when writes something, the truth. When my Fiance’ has pointed out the fact that she has a Masters Degree from Iowa (Hawkeyes) in journalism and related writing classes, Teri has somehow has become offended and blocked any ability to respond to the threads.
    It is a sad day when the very press that demands freedom of speech, will censor the very same thing that many of us expect from the First Amendment, freedom of speech!

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