Creating a First-class Media Relations Operation

Here’s an excerpt based on Chapter Five of my new book, Reporters Don’t Hate You: 100+ Amazing Media Relations Strategies, available wherever you prefer to buy your books.

The chapter contains “Hot 100+ Media Tips.” This segment revolves around how your company can foster a top notch media relations shop.

  • Bring your communications staffer with you to an interview whenever possible. They can take care of any logistics, such as getting you to the right place, recording the proceedings, and stepping in to redirect things if need be. This leaves you free to concentrate on driving home your message.
  • Showcase your expertise and on-camera talents by cataloging recordings of your previous interviews. Start with some local TV appearances or lower risk interviews. Share the clips with your communications staff so they can begin to pitch you to higher profile media outlets when appropriate.
  • Know when to pull back and stick with a written statement. Assenting to interviews is not always the right call. If you get the sense you are about to be caught in a trap or that you risk opening a can of worms albeit unintentionally, the smart call may be to forgo the face-to-face in favor of a statement. Distributing a message-oriented statement demonstrates responsiveness while keeping the temperature low.
  • Use embargoes sparingly. This is best used for complex issues that will take reporters some time to digest or when you want to give them time to do some additional digging. Be aware that, just because you label something as embargoed, news outlets do not have to abide by your wishes unless they have expressly agreed to that condition ahead of time.
  • Be judicious about giving certain reporters exclusives. Granting an exclusive to one means shutting out everyone else, whether dangling a jump on a high-profile story or an interview with a prominent personality. That larger cohort of reporters may not appreciate you giving their rivals an advantage.
  • Hold firm to any ground rules you agreed to in advance, such as whether they can take a tour of your office or plant. Appoint an escort (or, if the train starts to go off the rails, an enforcer), someone not afraid to stand up to a challenge. Ideally, this is one of your senior media relations staff.
  • Update your media strategy to take into account recent developments like the minute-by-minute news cycle in which news is posted immediately on the web and digital media.
  • Decide whether you can or want to bypass the traditional press. As digital media tools proliferate and gain acceptance, some businesses now communicate with no filter, bypassing the traditional media altogether.
  • Fine tune your digital presence, but never remove it from your overall communications strategy. Digital media channels are just tools and tactics – nothing more, nothing less. Do not buy into the canard that you need solely young people to execute digitally. Success comes only when you craft a strategy first, then deploy the relevant tactics and tools.
  • Decide in advance which bloggers, if any, you will treat as accredited journalists at your meetings, at news conferences, and for interview purposes. In my view, few bloggers should qualify. I publish the C-suite Blueprint blog, but that doesn’t make me a journalist (despite the fact that I was one once upon a time).
  • Stay “on the record” unless you are a front-line communications pro accustomed to negotiating ground rules with journalists. This means everything you say and do is fair game for inclusion in the story.
  • (Note: This tip applies to front-line media relations staff only) Agree upon any ground rules and get a positive assent from the reporter. Define in advance what terms of art like, “on background,” “off-the-record,” or “not for attribution” mean to both of you. You will find consensus definitions for each in the Reporter’s Glossary in Chapter Six.
  • Guard your hiring process. While discussing the subject of personnel, it is a good idea to build into your hiring process the need for including past reporters among your communications staff. Charge the senior communications experts with the screening and hiring. On a related note, they should also be the ones to contract with your media strategy consultants; this in consultation with your C-suite since they need to have a comfort level, too. Never cede this responsibility to another department.

What are leaders in today’s communications field saying about Reporters Don’t Hate You?

“Ed doesn’t mince words and offers a treasure trove of good ideas. It’s a must-have for anyone trying to figure out how the media work – and how they can become a pro at mastering media relations.”

— Cornelius “Neil” Foote, Jr.
President, National Black Public Relations Society

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