Graceless Under Pressure

By Steve Cody, Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Peppercomm, Inc. 

An approaching hurricane is to a TV meteorologist as a meth lab is to a speed junkie. Each salivates like Pavlov’s dog in anticipation of what’s to come.

It seems to me every TV meteorologist tries to out-hype and out-dramatize her competitor. Each likens an approaching snowstorm, Nor’easter or severe thunderstorm to an apocalyptic event of biblical proportions.

The so-called Frankenstorm, which is inching its way up the Eastern Seaboard as we speak, is just the latest example of completely irresponsible journalism on the part of so-called journalists. It’s also the perfect time for those of us in the corporate arena to demonstrate a cool, calm and measured response.

Should we anticipate a possible business disruption in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s potential damage? Absolutely. Should we suggest employees work from home if they feel the least bit uncertain about their personal health and well-being? Of course. But, should we also be advising employees to update their living wills and put their personal affairs in order? I think not. And, that’s where we so-called flaks and our peers in the Fourth Estate (whom we affectionately call hacks), differ.

The average TV meteorologist is driven by several personal goals:

  • Moving up the corporate ladder as fast and furiously as possible
  • Enhancing her personal brand (i.e. becoming weather’s version of Woodward & Bernstein)
  • Delivering eyeballs to his TV station
  • Delivering shoppers to the local businesses that sponsor her weather cast.

Understanding those personal and professional motivations is important in terms of keeping the average weather forecaster’s dire predictions in perspective. It explains why the meteorologist always opts for the worst case scenario in describing what might occur. It isn’t done to ensure the safety and well-being of viewers. Rather, it’s done to hype personal and station ratings while delivering bottom-line dollars to the show’s sponsors.

Click on this tape of one local meteorologist to see exactly what I mean.

Crisis management 101 calls for clear, consistent communications throughout the period of a crisis. The most junior public relations professional understands the need to project caring and concern regardless of whether the crisis concerns fraud, environmental disaster, a product recall or corporate downsizing. That’s why I think public relations, and not TV journalism, is by far the more professional profession.

You won’t catch a chief communications officer or agency president screaming at the top of her lungs, “Flee! Scurry! Get away from here as fast as possible! Your very life is in jeopardy!” Instead, you’ll find us presenting the facts, as well as suggested courses of action and periodic updates as warranted by developments.

PR professionals exemplify Hemingway’s definition of guts whereas TV weather types are graceless under pressure.

I’d go on, but I need to move my kids and dogs to higher ground. I’m worried that Hurricane Sandy might just knock down a branch or two from one of my trees. And, if it does, god knows how we’ll continue to function as a family unit.


Steve Cody is a stand-up comedian, runner, cycler, climber and managing partner and co-founder of Peppercomm, one of the nation’s largest independent public relations firms. He authors the RepMan blog, and is a member of The Arthur W. Page Society, the Civilian Public Affairs Committee of the US Military Academy at West Point, past chair pf the PRSA’s Counselors Academy and current chair of the College of Charleston’s Communications Advisory Council. Steve is also a member of the Northeastern University Corporation (his alma mater.)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  We appreciate and thank Steve Cody for venturing out in the storm to create his “media-hyped” video. invites our readers to create and share your own videos and thoughts about “media hype”.  Please comment below and email your videos to   Stay safe.



  1. Leslie on October 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Steve I agree. The hype of the news media during a major storm moves too quickly from information to inflammation. If I watch TV updates too long I start getting more worried. not better informed. PR professionals would definitely handle it better!

  2. CathyB on October 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Hmmmmm…I wonder if those 69 people in the Caribbean whose deaths are attributed to Hurricane Sandy would think that the evacuation warnings were hyperbole…

  3. Kasey Brown on November 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Do this. — play this vid, turn the volume down a bit… then come watch this one and turn the volume on this one up.

    It’s so perfect.

    It truly makes this storm sound like something that all men must confront… for our homes… for our nation… for our future!