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Viewers Express Exhaustion with Relentless Flow of Bad News

The news can be relentless, negative and evidently exhausting, according to a New Pew Research survey. There are antidotes ranging from not watching TV, tuning into social media or asking Google to search for good news. But negative news remains alluring and as addictive as nicotine.

The news can be relentless, negative and evidently exhausting, according to a New Pew Research survey. There are antidotes ranging from not watching TV, tuning into social media or asking Google to search for good news. But negative news remains alluring and as addictive as nicotine.

Americans admit to being exhausted by the news, which can seem relentlessly negative and depressing.

According to a new Pew Research survey, Republicans admit to more fatigue than Democrats. News fatigue is more common among people who follow the news less frequently and have a lower regard for the news media. White Americans report noticeably greater news fatigue than African-Americans or Latinos.

“If you feel like there is too much news and you can’t keep up, you are not alone,” writes Jeffrey Gottfried and Michael Barthel of the Pew Research Center. “Almost seven-in-10 Americans (68%) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days, compared with only three-in-10 who say they like the amount of news they get.”

The news tends to exhaust Republicans more (77%) than Democrats (61%), which probably has something to do with the content of the news. The Pew researchers note, “This elevated fatigue among Republicans tracks with them having less enthusiasm than Democrats for the 2018 elections.”

There are noteworthy demographic differences on the news fatigue curve. Women express more exhaustion than men. College graduates feel slightly more worn out than high school graduates. Older adults are less fatigued than younger adults. 

In light of all this exhaustion, Google has stepped in with relief from too much “negative news” by offering an assist from Google Assistant. Just say, “Hey Google, tell me something good.” Google Assistant then provides a summary of stories about “people who are solving problems for our communities and our world.” Many of the stories are plucked from the Solutions Journalism Network, which isn’t a regular contributor to mainstream news feeds.

However, the BBC says even though people may be fatigued by negative news, they are drawn to it like moths to bright light. “It isn’t just schadenfreude, we’ve evolved to react quickly to potential threats. Bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we’re doing to avoid danger.” We watch negative news for the same reasons we are drawn to the Walking Dead.

The New York Times published an article last year that suggested the more news people consume makes them yearn for “emotionality” in coverage, which often translates into negative stories. “Negativity is emphasized to keep [viewers] engaged,” according to a British psychology professor, Graham C.L. Davey. Negative news is apparently as addictive as nicotine.

One solution to “living in a Superconducting Super Collider of news with information bombarding us at a head-spinning velocity” is simply to turn to “slow news,” according to Dan Gillmor, a professor of media literacy at Arizona State University. Slow news could be as simple as plodding along without checking social media and news websites every few minutes.

News fatigue runs in cycles, often on the same wavelength as elections. As election day approaches and there is exponentially more political news, news watchers grow weary. Despite being tired, like campers who pulled an all-nighter around a campfire, they still have to watch the news so they don’t miss the latest sliver of negative news.

We do a lot of things when we are bone-tired. Watching the news, it turns out, is one of them.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling. 

Americans Trust British, Public Broadcasting News Most

A recent survey shows Americans trust British news sources more than US-based news sources from The New York Times to their local news outlets. The exception is public broadcasting, which enjoys a high level of trust.

A recent survey shows Americans trust British news sources more than US-based news sources from The New York Times to their local news outlets. The exception is public broadcasting, which enjoys a high level of trust.

Three of the four most trusted news sources by Americans are British. Three of the top six are public television and radio. The seventh most trusted news source is also British.

Americans tend to trust British new sources more than US-based news sources, except for public television. Social media, the Internet and President Trump were rated among untrustworthy news sources.

Based on a survey of more than 8,700 people conducted by the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, the most trusted news source for Americans is The Economist. The highest ranking US-based publication, in eighth place, is the Wall Street Journal.

On the flip side, the least trusted source of news was Occupy Democrats, a self-described counterbalance to the Tea Party. Following close behind in untrustworthiness were BuzzFeed, Breitbart, social media and President Trump, presumably referencing his Twitter posts.

The London-based BBC is the fourth most trusted news source, while CBS, NBC and ABC find themselves in the untrustworthy category, along with CNN, Fox and Huffpo.

The survey was undertaken in collaboration with 28 media organizations that invited participation. Participants self-selected and tended to live near the news outlets that promoted the survey.

That may account for appearance of the Dallas Morning NewsSeattle TimesDenver Post and Kansas City Star in the trusted category. The Los Angeles Times was in a dead heat with the Wall Street Journal for trustworthiness, but The Washington Post and The New York Times were down the list. Politico had a higher rating than the Post and the Times was followed by USA Today.

The results are a bit surprising since the political orientation of the participants listed to the liberal side of spectrum.

“The survey showed that politically liberal respondents were more trusting than conservatives, while Caucasians were more likely than non-whites to have confidence in the media,” according to a story about the survey by MarketWatch. “The level of trust remained fairly steady among people who identify themselves as liberals or moderates regardless of their age. Among conservatives, trust dropped off sharply with age.”

The survey comes as Trump and others deplore what they call “fake news,” which makes it ironic that many news consumers find him untrustworthy as a new source, ranked near the Internet and social media.


Getting the Message Right

A winning message is one that has been tested to ensure its words and imagery click with the audience it is intended to impress. You could be eating humble pie if you don’t test your messaging first.

A winning message is one that has been tested to ensure its words and imagery click with the audience it is intended to impress. You could be eating humble pie if you don’t test your messaging first.

Organizations can be forced to eat humble pie when they don’t test their branding, key messages or product explanations to make sure their intended audience understands what they are trying to convey.

Staff brainstorming can produce clever ideas, but they aren’t strategic concepts unless tested to make sure they click with customers. Ditto for creative material that can sing to an internal audience, but fall flat with the people you are trying to convince.

Getting the message right is all about making sure you're using the right words, images and emotional content for the particular audience. The only way to have a degree of confidence you are right is to run it by a representative sample of people you seek to reach.

Smart organizations tap into their consumers or target audiences to identify and test messages that work. It takes nothing more than asking questions. In fact, most organizations already have tools that could be employed for effective marketing and communications efforts.

Use focus groups

Invite a small sample of people who fit the target audience to meet with you. Ask questions about the issue or product. Listen closely to the words they use and the concepts they describe. The language they use is the language you need to use to make them understand what you mean. It could be as simple as turning a familiar phrase.

Example: A health insurance client used focus groups to identify new messaging for promotional material. After changing brochures and ads to new consumer-furnished messages, sales increased by 6 percent.

Add a few open-ended questions to surveys

Provide respondents the opportunity to explain what they like, want or need. Ask how they talk about products and issues with their friends. Identify what is important. A note of caution, though: Be sure the survey sample matches the characteristics of the intended audience for the communication effort.

Example: A physician network used comments from an online survey to identify topics for newsletters, content for social media posts and ad themes. The rate of opens and clicks increased as content became more relevant.

Tap into social media

Creating conversations about the product or issue. Follow up with certain individuals to probe for additional information. Again, pay close attention to the words they use and how they approach your product, service or concept.

The key to effective messaging is making it relevant, informative and persuasive. Be sure what you say is important to the audience while providing meaningful information conveyed in words and imagery that resonates with them.

Tom Eiland is a CFM partner and the leader of the firm’s research practice. His work merges online research with client communications and engagement efforts, and he has a wide range of clients in the education, health care and transportation sectors. You can reach Tom at

Business Use of Digital Media Skyrockets

Businesses are using video confrencing tools more than ever before. 

Businesses are using video confrencing tools more than ever before. 

Business use of digital media has skyrocketed during the past eight years for tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and video. While e-newsletters were the most popular form of digital media in 2007, it is not among the top four in 2015.  

These are some of the key findings from an Input survey among 318 decision-makers in Oregon and SW Washington conducted by CFM on behalf of Oregon Business. 

The survey found the most popular digital communication tools used for business and professional purposes were business social networking sites, such as LinkedIn (64%), texting (61%) and social networking sites (58%). A majority of decision-makers also use live video, such as Skype or GoToMeeting (55%) and e-newsletters (53%).  

Use of some tools has grown dramatically. The share of people using business social networking and texting has more than doubled since 2007, while use of consumer social media sites has increased six-fold. On the other hand, use of e-newsletters has increased just 10 points since 2007 and blogging remains one of the less frequently used tools. 

Increased business use of digital media is not surprising. Based on a variety of CFM research efforts for private and public clients, CFM has found customers and business colleagues are using online communication and engagement tools to get information and connect with friends and business associates. Essentially, businesses have learned to go where the people are. 

CFM predicts use of video will continue to grow during the next few years because mobile media use is increasing rapidly, recording videos and posting to social media and websites is easy, and people are sharing videos with colleagues and friends.  

The online Input survey was conducted in March 2015.

Open-Ended Survey Comments = a Content Treasure Chest

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

Open-ended responses in surveys are a treasure trove of information, but usually the marketing team doesn’t review the verbatim. Instead, similar comments are combined into short-worded themes, such as on-time delivery, great customer service or product doesn’t perform.

Combined comments are easy to read and give managers overall concepts. However, combined comments are the Cliff’s Notes of research – short, succinct and to the point, but without depth, nuance or insights.

Marketing and communications managers should read and use verbatim to provide food for thought and action. Here are some suggested ways verbatim from open-ended survey questions can be used to support marketing and operations.

Topics for articles

Open-ended remarks are full of new ideas or angles for articles, tweets, speeches and case studies. Use quotes to highlight themes or emphasize why actions will be taken.


Open-eneded remarks can be converted into quotes for newsletters, press releases and social media. The phrases are genuine and will be recognized as such. Remember to get permission from respondents if you want to attribute the comments to an individual.

Improving the Customer Experience

When customers write: “I love this product but...,“ take note. It is that additional information that identifies where your customer service or operations team are falling short of expectations. Once changes are made, prepare an article about what you heard and what you did.


Nuggets about why people buy or recommend products can be found in open-ended remarks. Encourage the PR and advertising team to incorporate the features and benefits that customers say are important into promotional materials and advertising.

Customer service

Don’t ignore complaints found in surveys. Customers who have bad experiences will complain to 20 people. Ask customer service to follow up with people that had trouble navigating customer service, a website or simply weren’t treated well. The people you call will be surprised you read their feedback and impressed you want to make amends.


Use questions found in open-ended remarks to develop FAQs. The responses provide information about real concerns and problems.

Thought Leadership

Organizations in crisis will conduct research to understand how customers may react to communication about the issue. Encourage senior managers to use quotes from surveys in speeches and articles to highlight that customers are heard and help in providing direction. Don’t forget to include the changes that will be made as a result of the comments. For more information about handling a crisis read CFM Crisis Ebook.

Research can be much more than statistics. It can provide the foundation and content for communicating and engaging with customers, communities and stakeholders.

Shareability is Key to Advertising Value

Don't waste your advertising money on celebrities and focus instead on ads that project warmth and happiness, which trigger a deeper emotional response and are more shareable on social media.

That's the conclusion of Unruly, a marketing technology company that used its proprietary tracking software to evaluate this year's Super Bowl TV ads. In a report called The Science of Sharing 2014, Unruly said none of the top three most shared ads featured celebrities, which included Bob Dylan, Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, U2, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Muppets.

The most shareable ads, according to Unruly, starred a cute puppy, a caring soldier and a multicultural cast. "It wasn't famous faces that that had people sharing at this year's Super Bowl," Unruly said.

Unruly published its findings "to help advertisers maximize their online presence" to leverage greater value from paid media. It is not enough, the firm said, to make a big one-night splash. Brands also need a content distribution strategy.

"For brands, it's no longer just about their TV ads being on the Super Bowl," Unruly concluded. "With more than 24 million shares tracked every 24 hours, the real opportunity for marketers is to connect their paid TV sponsorship with their paid online media, where their ads can be watched and shared before, during and way after the Big Game."