COVID-19 has changed our media habits – by Chris Zaccaro

A ton has changed since COVID-19 reached our shores and most of us were sent home to wait it all out—especially the volume of content we’ve been consuming to both inform and entertain ourselves.

With nowhere to be and no one to see, people have been predictably relying on their at-home televisions, smartphones and devices. Nearly 90% of Americans say they are consuming more content than before the pandemic, with most turning to broadcast television, online videos and online TV.

On the other side of the coin, consumers have been turning away from other mediums such as podcasts as they leave their daily commutes, visits to the gym and other regular outside-the-home activities behind.

Podcast consumption, which was up an impressive 31% from the beginning of the year, has been slowly dipping since March, dropping around 10% over the last few weeks (according to Podtrac, which reports on podcast trends). This is not surprising, and it’s probably safe to expect podcast and radio listening to increase once people are back to commuting to work, getting their workouts in, hosting parties and lounging at the pool or beach. So, keep that impressive pre-pandemic podcast growth rate in mind if you are thinking about developing a series of your own.

What are people looking for?

According to the Global Web Index’s April 2020 Report on Media Consumption and Sport, the largest amount of online activity (68% of consumers) has been searches for coronavirus information—and that applies across all demographics and generations, except for 16-23 year olds who are more likely to be searching for music, naturally.

While the numbers clearly show a continued demand for updates on the pandemic and recovery rates, many people are ready to start seeing positive and local stories again. We have seen Connecticut news stations focusing on positive news in recent weeks, which I think we can all agree is welcome during this challenging time. This is something brands and organizations should now be thinking about and considering, as the curve begins to flatten and the “stay safe, stay home” way of life begins to ease.

Who are consumers turning to?

When it comes to trustworthy sources for COVID-19 information, twice as many Americans trust the World Health Organization (WHO) more than news websites (30%). Sadly, TV news channels are not doing much better (37%). Think about that statistic for a moment: only 37% of Americans think news channels have trustworthy information about the coronavirus in the midst of a global emergency.

Interestingly, the communications firm Edelman published a special edition of its annual Trust Barometer Report, which reveals that employers are considered to be the most credible sources of information related to coronavirus. According to Edleman, “Employees want to be informed beyond the effect on the company, including advice on travel and what can be done to stop the spread of the virus. They want to get the information via email or newsletter (48%), posts on the company website (33%) and phone/video conferences (23%).

Many are turning to online and streaming entertainment, with people reporting they are more likely to pay a subscription for an entertainment service, like Netflix or Disney+, than a trustworthy news source. That may be partially due to the lack of trust noted in the Global Web Index Report, but more likely it’s the need for escapism during this challenging time and the plethora of free news on the internet—which as we know, is not all trustworthy.

It’s also not new news. As we reported last year in our State of the Media Market, only 15% of adults here in the Hartford area actually pay for local news.

What’s happening on social?

Overall and unsurprisingly, social media usage is up—but people aren’t just talking about Tiger King, dancing to Tik Tok and crying about Tom Brady and Gronk. Who the Giants beat twice in the Super Bowl I might add.

LinkedIn has seen a sharp increase in its professional development courses since the stay at home orders were put in place. As per LinkedIn, “In the first week of April, people watched 1.7 million hours of learning content on LinkedIn Learning vs. 560,000 hours in the first week of January – a 3X increase in time spent learning.”

This means people are sharpening their skills as they’re working at home or seeking a new job, signaling that now is the time to leverage LinkedIn to highlight your industry knowledge or your organization’s capabilities.

Watch the trends, and plan ahead

Everyone hopes that this time will pass and we can restore a sense of relative normalcy to our daily lives sooner than later. These trends may be temporary or they may repeat themselves in the fall/winter months if COVID-19 levels climb again, as the CDC has warned us. We will be watching and keeping you informed as we all look ahead to the future.  

As we pointed out last week, now is the time to plan. The businesses that will endure beyond this pandemic are busy preparing and planning to innovate and renovate their business plans, product lines and services right now, so when they emerge from these challenging times they are ready to renew and rebuild.

Please remember you can find a trove of information on COVID-19, with resources from the state and federal government at ct.gov/Coronavirus.

Stay safe, everyone.

Sullivan & LeShane’s Dan Tapper Appears on MetroHartford Alliance’s “Pulse of the Region”

LISTEN BELOW: Senior Account Manager Dan Tapper recently appeared on Pulse of the Region, the MetroHartford Alliance’s weekly radio show, to talk about Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc., the firm’s capabilities and how effective communication protects your organization and image, particularly during challenging times.

Listen to “Guests: Barry Simon from Oak Hill & Dan Tapper from Sullivan & LeShane” on Spreaker.

Planning, Ingenuity and Imagination Will Fuel Connecticut’s Arsenal of Recovery – by Brian Flaherty


The past several weeks have been trying for everyone in Connecticut—parents, children, elected leaders, employers, employees, not for profits and educators.

The team at Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc. has seen and managed almost every type of crisis in our three decades of experience, but nothing compares to the impact the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) global pandemic has had on our state.

We know and understand the many challenges that companies, small businesses and organizations are facing, because we’ve been listening and helping them share their stories, retool their internal and external communications strategies, stay connected to their audiences, engage the media, and turn vulnerabilities they’re facing into opportunities.

We also know from experience that when a crisis first hits, you need to take immediate action to protect the trust you have built with your key audiences—whether it’s your employees, customers, suppliers, investors or the community. Timely demonstrations of caring, agility, business continuance and communication are critical to weathering the storm.

Using reliable resources, data and our widespread network throughout government, our counterparts on the Sullivan & LeShane government relations team have been steadily keeping their clients apprised of new COVID-19-related developments, while helping them to navigate the minute-by-minute changes we’ve come to expect each day and providing consultation on how they can do business in the months ahead and take advantage of state and federal stimulus programs.

Between helping to expand childcare programs for healthcare workers through a state grant, opening a new market that allows manufacturers to provide much-needed supplies to the frontline of the COVID-19 fight, creating safety waivers for the return of bottles and cans to grocery and convenience stores, providing parity for a manufacturer that was able to offer needed supplies but was prohibited by state law and securing waivers on non-urgent regulations for community-based physician offices—the lobbying team has been making things happen and positioning a variety of spokespeople as thought leaders who can communicate need-to-know facts and best practices for their industries.

It’s hard to imagine just how quickly we have shifted to a world where television news anchors are broadcasting into our living room—from their living room—but we’re a resourceful and resilient lot in Connecticut. We know how to adapt and thrive. Three things are certain in the coming months. First, this difficult time will pass. Second, there will be a new normal once it does. Third, we will continue to work full speed to design and deliver successful outcomes to help our clients sustain and recover through this crisis and into the new normal.

Speaking of recovery, the businesses that will endure beyond this pandemic are already busy preparing for it now—innovating and renovating business plans, product lines and services. They’re identifying new ways to add technology and utilize their workforce so when they emerge from these challenging times they are focused and ready to rebuild, restructure and renew their contributions to the economy and their communities.

This, after all, the birthplace of Yankee ingenuity, and a time of innovation and renovation. Grocers are adapting to serve their customers and protect their employees, distillers are producing hand sanitizer, technical high schools, libraries and small manufacturers are 3-D printing face shields, physicians and professors are-engineering ventilators in real time, and brave health care workers and first responders are providing care, comfort and protection. We thank them and salute them. Together, they are fueling the arsenal of our recovery.

We’ve been hit…but we have a plan – by Dan Tapper


Back at the height of his dominance as a nearly unstoppable heavyweight champion in the late 1980s, Mike Tyson—following a customary knockout of an opponent—was asked what he thought happened to his opponent’s plan of attack during the fight. His response has become iconic.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

It’s true in boxing, and it’s true in the world of public relations. No business or organization ever wants to have a day where everything goes wrong, where the best laid plans take a backseat to managing a crisis. But that’s the real world. Sometimes we get hit.

But during the extraordinary disruption caused by the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, some have been able to say, “We’ve been hit. But we have a plan. And it’s working.”

As recently as a month ago few could possibly have predicted we would be where we are right now. Offices shuttered and everyone working from home. Schools and college campuses closed and kids learning from home. Competitive sports cancelled around the world. Dining out, going to bars, going to friends’ homes, going to a playground or a movie, even shaking a friend’s hand? All things of the past.

And yet, here we are, adapting to the new paradigm of social distancing, telework and unprecedented changes to our daily routines. We took a huge hit, but we had a plan and we’ve kept moving—in some cases, impressively and inspiringly.

We have seen physicians and health care providers across the state pitching in at every turn to treat patients in desperate need of care, often at the expense of their own safety. Many are even finding innovative ways to do it, through telemedicine and remote consultations. They took a hit. And they kept moving.

We have seen large Connecticut companies, 500-1,000 people strong, shift to a telework system and not miss a beat. Not only that, they have managed to stay connected with their employees, customers and clients, stressing one common message: “We are all in this together.”

Photo Courtesy of Masonicare


We have seen senior communities cope with seemingly impossible challenges. Family members not able to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and retirement communities are finding ways to make things work through high-tech Zoom meetings and hand-made “Hi Mom” and “I Love You” signs held up through the window. They took a hit. And they kept moving.

We have seen all this and more. People who are forced to work and function in brand new ways that they never could have dreamed of, but who continue to get the work done for those who are depending on them. And it has been amazing to see.

The COVID-19 crisis is, sadly, nowhere near over yet, and the tragedy that has befallen so many in our state who have lost friends and loved ones is immeasurable. Yet through it all we have seen the unconquerable human spirit enduring, adapting and carrying on. It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t get any easier any time soon, but rather than let it defeat us, we’ve taken a hit and we’ve kept moving.

We wish you safety and good health, and we want you to know we remain with you every step of the way. And we stand in awe of your resilience—of your ability to take a punch harder than anything Mike Tyson ever threw, to quickly regroup, get up from the canvas and keep moving.

Coming Soon: A Likely Story for Twitter – by Chris Zaccaro

Twitter is finally jumping on the bandwagon and preparing to roll out a new “story” feature for their platform, thus joining competitors Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others. The new feature, which is currently being tested in Brazil, will be referred to as “fleets” rather than “stories.”

Like their competitors’ stories, Twitter’s fleets will be placed at the top of your feed and enable you to share pictures, videos, GIFs and text that will eventually expire and disappear—presumably after 24 hours. Many people prefer to utilize story features because they feel more comfortable posting content that’s not permanently on a platform and open for comments and reactions. This should provide these folks an avenue to interact with Twitter more often and move the needle on posting frequency. After all, according to the Pew Research Center, the top 10% of tweeters are responsible for an astounding 80% of the tweets created by all U.S. adults on Twitter.

From what has been reported, there won’t be a way to share, or in this case retweet, another person’s fleet (unless you’re sneaky and capture a screenshot or screen recording). Also, those who are tagged in a fleet by another user will not be notified. Which I find more strange than interesting. I know I want a notification when our clients or firm—or myself with my personal pages—are tagged by someone else.

What appears to be a welcome feature within fleets is the ability to post clickable links, regardless of your number of followers or verification status. But as we all (should) know, you should only click on links from trusted sources. Not some profile with 2 followers that still has an egg for a profile picture.

So will Twitter fleets be fleeting? It has been reported for over a year now that stories will eventually overtake news feeds as the primary way users view social media content—but until now the story feature has only applied to the aforementioned Twitter competitors like Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is a bit of a different animal, with a different audience. It will be interesting to see if the Twitterverse accepts and utilizes fleets or if they will eventually go the way of Google+, the social media dodo bird, and disappear like a story hitting the 24-hour mark.

Sullivan & LeShane recognized for creating outstanding green space in Hartford


KNOX, a Hartford organization that uses horticulture as a catalyst for community engagement, recently honored Sullivan & LeShane with a Hartford Urban Gardeners Society (HUGS) Award at their annual awards ceremony on March 11, 2020. HUGS recognize Hartford residents and businesses that have created outstanding green spaces in the city.

The Sullivan & LeShane office building, located at 287-289 Capitol Avenue in Hartford, right across the street from the state’s Legislative Office Building, lives in the neighborhood known as Frog Hollow. The property hosts a unique, gated garden in an urban environment that features ornamental grasses, hostas, rhododendrons and seasonal flowers.

To learn more about our office building and the Frog Hollow neighborhood, click here.

The Governor Earns an “A” by Aiming for the “Cs” – by Brian Flaherty

Connecticut is a state that likes to hear from our governors when the chips are down.

📷 Office of Governor Ned Lamont, Twitter

I’m old enough to remember the Blizzard of ’78 and the iconic “ELLA HELP” message dug into three feet of snow on a Montville lake so that Gov. Ella Grasso could see it when she flew over in a Connecticut National Guard helicopter. Later, Gov. Bill O’Neill took charge when the Mianus River Bridge collapsed in the late 1980s on Interstate 95. Gov. John Rowland bound together the state’s wounds after a tragic shooting at the Connecticut Lottery headquarters and did so again on September 11, 2001.

On a lighter note, there were so many storms in his first year in office that Gov. Dannel Malloy practically moved his office to the state Emergency Response Center. He earned praise for it, and no one can forget how he spoke for an entire state in the shattering aftermath of the shooting in Sandy Hook.

We’re used to getting it straight from our governors.

And so it was that Gov. Ned Lamont strode into the Emergency Response Center on Wednesday, February 26th—with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and a bevy of his administration’s health and safety leaders, along with hospitals, health providers and a small bipartisan group of state legislators—to inform his state about efforts under way to prepare for the coronavirus.

“Connecticut is ready, and we’ve been ready for a while,” Lamont said at the lectern bearing the governor’s seal. He meant it, and he went on to explain in detail the mobilization of state government to prepare and respond.

The Three “Cs”

In so doing, the Governor hit all of the three “Cs” of effective crisis communication:

  1. Care: You must show the public that resolving an issue is a top priority.
  2. Control: You need to create the messages that define and control your narrative.
  3. Communicate: You must consistently communicate that narrative to all key audiences.

Reputations are won and lost in times of crisis. When a crisis hits the public eye, how quickly, sincerely and effectively you communicate your messages will mean the difference between success and failure. Effective crisis communication helps organizations—in this case, state government in the person of its governor—boost confidence and maintain trust.

That’s exactly what this governor did.

The coronavirus is the latest in a series of teachable moments for our elected leaders, just as it is frightening to the public and challenging for the countless scientists, medical professionals and public servants who are working around the clock to keep us healthy and safe. Arming the people with the information we need will give far more lasting comfort than simply telling us it will go away like the flu.

By aiming for the “Cs” of communicating in a crisis, give Gov. Lamont an “A.”

Resources: You can find a trove of information on the coronavirus, with resources from the state and federal government here.

Meet the Media: Jim Altman of FOX61

 

Jim Altman is a 33-time Emmy Award-winning reporter who joined FOX61 in 2005. Altman has covered most major news events in the state over the past 14 years at Fox as well as hosting his popular weekly travel segment “Daytrippers”. Jim has toured the world on assignment for FOX61 including reporting from the shores of Cuba, to the streets of Ireland, and to the sidelines of the Super Bowl. (via Fox61.com)

Let’s start with a simple one. What is your favorite part about being a television news reporter?

Altman: It is pretty simple…Telling the stories. In our line of work we get to visit a new world each day. You could be in a submarine one day and hang gliding the next…At the State Capitol another day, on the sidelines of the Super Bowl the next. Still, no matter what we are covering, stories are mostly character driven, so meeting the people behind the stories is almost always the most intriguing part.

You are known for your storytelling ability as a reporter, for finding those “off the beaten path” stories and bringing them to light. What is it about those stories that draw you to them?

Altman: There’s no doubt that reporting from the snow bank or a car crash is needed part of what we do but the stories that involve a bit more production value and, perhaps, have more of a unique impact are most special to me. There are so many interesting stories to be told across the state. I think most reporters are drawn to the unique, intriguing topics that people will remember.

What are a few of the favorite stories you’ve done for FOX61 over the years, and why?

Altman: That’s a tough one, there have been so many favorites. Most recently, photographer Sean McKeever and I reported on a quadriplegic patient at the Hospital for Special Care who might not have use of his arms but has become an amazing artist using his mouth to paint. Another favorite experience was our week long reports from Holquin, Cuba which we called “Bats, Balls, Gloves and Goodwill.” A West Hartford kid’s baseball team became the first youth group to play on the exiled Caribbean Island in decades. Those reports from the remote parts of Cuba, where baseball is religion, are among the stories I’m most proud of. I’d also have to give a nod to our “Daytrippers” segments which have pushed envelopes production-wise and let us explore the most “out there” venues around the region. We’ve been able to take the viewers on the aforementioned hang gliding, rappelling, barnstorming, race car driving on snow, flyboarding and we have visited almost every zip line within 200 miles.

You’ve been doing this a while. How has television journalism changed in the years since you started, and do you see that as being good, bad or a little of both?

Altman: It certainly is a little bit of both. The speed of technology can be a great asset but can also leave those in our business in precarious positions if you’re not careful. I try to be as careful as possible. I’ve found that our business struggles with “being first” when the objective is “being accurate.” I think FOX61 does a good job with these technological challenges that didn’t exist when I arrived in CT back in 2005. On the plus side, we can now implement production tactics that can chronicle very compelling pictures to enhance our storytelling. GoPros, and drones, and, yes, even iPhones all have added elements to our visuals on a daily basis that can take already great topics and make them even more memorable.

While you are not from this market originally, you’ve remained in the market for more than 15 years. What is it about Connecticut that has made you want to stay here?

Altman: We live in West Hartford, I realized a few years into this job that we had a good thing here. The area reminds me a bit of Washington, DC where I grew until I was a teenager. Here at FOX61, over the past 15 years, I have been lucky enough to work with a number of talented photographers who have produced so many stories that were great to tell — and there’s has been no shortage interesting stories to report on here. Fifteen years into this, I’m always amped to share the next great topic with the viewers.

The Birth of a Slogan – by Brian Flaherty

On this day, February 10, 1897, page one of The New York Times first carried the slogan, “All the news that’s fit to print,” coined by its owner Adolph Ochs. At the time, the paper sold for a penny.

It may be hard to imagine today, but there was a time when “the news” meant one of two things:

• A daily paper that would arrive once or twice a day on your front porch with a thud—or crash—depending on the aim of your paper carrier

• A nightly evening network newscast—one time: 6:30 pm Eastern; four networks: ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.

Today, “all the news” can be found among myriad choices on multiple platforms catering to nearly every point of view. But do Americans think it’s fit?

The Pew View: A Nation Divided

Pew Research Center reported last month that no single news source is trusted by a majority of U.S. adults. Pew surveyed over 12,000 adults in late 2019, breaking down the news sources they rely upon to get their news and which ones they trust the most.

• Republicans rely on Fox News to get their news and Democrats rely on CNN the most. That said, GOP respondents rely far more exclusively on Fox than the Democrats do on CNN or any other source.

• Democrats’ trust levels in CNN are on par with Republicans’ trust in Fox.

• Of 30 specific news sources cited in the survey, Democrats expressed trust in 22 of them; Republicans distrusted more than 20 of them.

Does that mean conservatives aren’t watching CNN? Not so, according to Nieman Journalism Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen, in a great analysis tying the Pew report to another survey it conducted in 2014.

That survey showed that 78% of the respondents said they got news “only from outlets they trust or ones they neither trust nor distrust.” No surprise there.

However, conservatives were more willing to hear from another point of view. Some 26% of those with consistently conservative points of view reported consuming news from at least one source that they distrusted—while only 14% of those with consistently liberal points of view reported doing the same.

The Grey Lady Beats a Deadline

To be sure, news-hungry Knickerbockers in 1897 had choices, too. If The Times wasn’t their cup of tea, there was always the New York Journal and The New York Herald.

How fares “The Grey Lady” today?

While the paper’s newsstand price has climbed $2.50, the paper closed 2019 reporting $800 million in digital revenue, reaching that goal—double its 2015 figure—one year ahead of schedule.

As Nieman reported last week, despite a 10 percent drop in online and print advertising revenue, The Times had a banner year.

“The paper of record added 1 million new digital-only subscribers and ended the year with a total of 5.25 million total subscriptions across all of their digital and print products. Both were new records for the paper.”

Nieman’s Sarah Scire quoted CEO Mark Thompson on the paper’s year-end earnings, saying the key to success was “the decision to give more autonomy to teams working on the publication’s various digital products.”

And signifying good news for veteran crossword-builder, successful publican and Fairfield University alum Joe DiPietro, The Times gained some 40,000 crossword subscriptions in 2019.

Incidentally, when Ochs debuted “All the news that’s fit to print” on this day 123 years ago, the paper offered a $100 prize to anyone who could come up with a better slogan of 10 words or less.

To date, no one has.

Being First Isn’t More Important Than Being Right – by Chris Zaccaro

The tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with several others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA, made Sunday a sad day for all of us.

It also offered a reminder of the problem of reporting or spreading news too quickly, before the facts are in, regardless of whether it’s right or not.

For me it started with a text message from a friend.

“You see Kobe? Died in a helicopter crash. Wow.”

I flipped on the radio to find the UConn game had just concluded in Hartford and the station had not yet begun its coverage of what would be an all-consuming story the rest of the day. But just a few minutes later, after a sudden interruption during a commercial break, the tragic news was confirmed—Kobe Bryant, only 41, had died in a helicopter crash in California.

That’s all I knew at that point. It hit hard and I was stunned.

Soon after that I reached my destination, a local pizza bar, where I was able to silently watch the news during that first hour trickle in on TV and flood in on social media. All sorts of rumors about the crash—tweets, posts and text messages came coursing through my phone.

The conflicting information unfortunately reminded me of another sad time—Sandy Hook. I always use that awful day as a reminder not to take any rumors as fact, as there are those out there trying to be the first to report something or non-journalists acting like they know something.

On Sunday, the first half-hour started with rumors that former-Laker Rick Fox was also on the helicopter. “Oh man,” I thought.

The second half-hour started with rumors that all of Kobe’s children were on the flight.

“Oh God no,” I, along with many others, prayed.

Moments later, it was said to be two of his kids.

The world later found out that one of his children was on board, as well as other parents and teammates. Nine people in all. They were on their way to a travel basketball game. It was heartbreaking news to hear.

Late Sunday, during a press conference with the LA County Fire Chief and Sheriff, it was implied that the families of Bryant and the other passengers learned about the fate of their loved ones from TMZ, before they could be formally and appropriately notified. I can only imagine the false rumors they came across in panicked text messages and calls they received, as they began to deal with the worst day of their lives. I hope they were able to turn their phones off.

We live in a world where we watch everything play out in real time. In some cases, like sporting events, that’s a gift. In others, like when we all watched together as Notre Dame Cathedral burned in Paris or whenever news of another mass shooting hits the airwaves, we pause to look, listen and try to learn more.

When things like this happen, the rush to get the news first often seems to supersede the need to get it right. And this doesn’t apply only to legacy media outlets, but to anyone in the digital realm who offers, repeats or shares news that has not yet been confirmed.

It’s true, numerous reporting errors were made in the past, long before the real-time digital age, in that same rush to be first. But it almost seems to be encouraged today—in a get it out there, correct it later sense—and that doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s during developing, tragic instances like these that we need to be mindful of spreading information that we know nothing about.

False information is always going to be out there, but when it comes to breaking news—particularly tragic cases—pause, hope or pray for the best—then wait for the facts.