A Fireside Chat with Peter Howe
In March, NIRI Boston hosted its annual Sponsorpalooza event featuring exhibits of the chapter’s 17 sponsors followed by a special guest speaker. This year, we were pleased to have 30-year media veteran Peter Howe, whose resume includes a 20+ year career as a reporter and editor for the Boston Globe and nearly a decade as business editor and CEO Corner host at New England Cable News. Currently, Peter is a senior advisor focused on public affairs, corporate communication, and crisis management at Denterlein, a Boston-based strategic communications agency. Peter shared his unique perspectives on the media’s ongoing evolution, Boston’s rich market of public company leaders and his more recent experiences from the corporate/agency side.
During the fireside chat, Peter made it clear that the media landscape has changed drastically over the past 10-15 years. He says the impact of traditional media has been significantly reduced and that staff at these outlets has been deeply cut as well.
Peter pointed out the importance that the communications function brings to company strategy. In fact, as he consults with chief executives, he has discovered that communications can help to shape company strategy rather than simply describing it. This is accomplished by asking pertinent questions, such as:
1) What is the audience you want to reach?
2) What is the call to action we want to send?
3) What are the key takeaways for the audience?
A big topic of discussion during the evening focused on media bias and how it has evolved. Peter pointed out the media has virtually always had some bias but that our access to media has changed. With so many media options today, we as individuals can choose how we want to filter in or out bias. Twenty years ago, which Peter described as the pinnacle of fair media coverage, the sources available to the public were more limited – and therefore the sources felt pressure to be more balanced than they do today.
He explains that media bias should not be considered as deliberate or dishonesty. Instead, it should be viewed as “blind spots” – a fundamental lack of understanding of ideas, opinions or experiences from others.
Peter also touched upon his experience interviewing CEOs as host of CEO Corner. Peter pointed out that the best leaders have two important qualities; they are good storytellers and have a high degree of self-awareness. He said while anyone can get media trained and hit on the talking points, the best have the self-awareness to move past just talking points and deliver a compelling story.
The end of the evening circled around to the “fake news” phenomenon. Peter stressed to know your own bias, exercise good judgment, and always be skeptical – if it doesn’t seem right, the story is likely fabricated.
A special thanks to Aurora Krause, a Boston-based Investor Relations & Corporate Communications professional and former NIRI Boston board member, for writing our March event summary.