Putting Dow in context key to coverage

The recent record highs set by the Dow Jones Industrial Average are certainly major news, and you couldn't blame some outlets for including an almost giddy tone into their coverage.

The recent record highs set by the Dow Jones Industrial Average are certainly major news, and you couldn't blame some outlets for including an almost giddy tone into their coverage.

"The business media does get caught up in the hype of a rising market, and there's a good reason for it - it sells," says Don Middleberg, CEO of New York-based Middleberg Communications.

But what was also surprising about the Dow 12,000 story was how measured and nuanced most of the coverage was, especially from the personal finance press.

"The personal finance media is really different from standard business outlets like CNBC," explains Ogilvy Public Relations VP Jonathan Mairs. "And so, the Dow hitting 12,000 is not [by itself] a reason for personal finance reporters to steer people back to the market."

Glen Mathison, VP of corporate PR at Charles Schwab, adds, "Our message to reporters has been, if you're going to cover this, make sure you put this in the context of what people should be doing with their overall portfolio and importance of building an investment plan that can weather all kinds of changes in the markets."

As far as what hooks are working now, Kate Ennis, who worked on the CNBC news desk before founding her own PR firm, says she's having success pitching stories on how it's not too late for the average investor to benefit from a strong Dow.

"I don't see the personal finance columnists appealing to active traders, but they do recognize that half of all US households own stock, largely though their retirement savings plans," she says. "And like any other beat re-porters, they get tired of covering the same old thing, so when a story like Dow 12,000 comes along, that's news."

Ennis points out that Dow 12,000 can be pitched to non-business outlets, as well. "You can wrap it up in a story on how older women are ill-prepared for retirement and pitch that to boomer lifestyle outlets," she says. "Any way you can slice it demographically, there is a way in because most outlets, including places like Maxim, will do some personal finance."

Tim Barello, assistant account supervisor with Padilla Speer Beardsley, adds that the rising Dow is also another chance to educate both reporters and consumers about the other aspects of Wall Street, including the bond market.

"The media are so much more consumer-focused," he explains. "[As such, they] are actively looking for those kinds of angles to any market story."

PITCHING... PERSONAL FINANCE

Providing local experts, such as area money managers, will enable local personal finance reporters to localize what has essentially been a Wall Street, rather than Main Street, story

Anything you do to simplify the complexities of the DJIA provides an appealing angle for the personal finance press

The Dow may not be the only economic indicator, but given that most newscasts close with its performance, it is something the average American knows about, so the recent rise is a story that's going to have some legs

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