Dinner in a log cabin

Last night I was up too late, but it was worth it. Shoba Purushothaman, CEO of The Newsmarket, held a dinner for Andrew Heyward, former...

Last night I was up too late, but it was worth it. Shoba Purushothaman, CEO of The Newsmarket, held a dinner for Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News and a new member of her board. A group of 14 people made the trek via minivan up into the hills of Salt Lake City, to dine in a picturesque log cabin-style restaurant, and talk about what's going on out there. Among the attendees were Gerry Corbett from Hitatchi, Ron Roecker from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (The Grammys), Allan Schoenberg of Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Steve Lampert of AstraZeneca, Michael Durand of Ogilvy, and Barry Ziehl of Warner Brothers Consumer Products.

All the attendees were speaking at the PRSA conference. Conversation was extremely lively, driven by an energized and smart group, with cocktails in hand in a high altitude. Alas, much of the discussion was definitely off the record, touching on everything from difficult CEOs to cultural divides in the global world. But if one theme emerged in many of the wine-fueled anecdotes about navigating the C-suite and political egos in a range of industries, it is that authenticity is the currency of the day.

Candor from the C-suite in the face of adversity is what smart PR leaders are counseling their internal clients to embrace. How well they can use it depends on the long-term efforts to build relationships with the media, investors, and other stakeholders. Heyward touched on authenticity again in his speech this morning to conference attendees, which focused primarily on the implications of the new media. He made a point that mainstream media outlets may be, in some ways, more relevant than ever in this environment.

While still attracting a non-insignificant percentage of readers or eyeballs, traditional media outlets can sustain credibility and authenticity through the rigor of the reporting process. In time, trust in that process may be more highly valued than ever. Of course, trust in the media has been compromised by a number of factors, not least CBS News under Heyward’s leadership. He took a moment to admit his and CBS’ own failure to comprehend the crisis in its midst in 2005, in the faulty reporting of Bush’s National Guard service.

“We were too slow to recognize that it was serious and credible,” he said.

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