Success with the media begins with knowing how to do your job. It also involves understanding the media knows how to do its job.
Dealing successfully with the media begins with forging reliable and professional relationships with reporters, editors, and producers. Achieving that goal also includes knowing how to let them do their job.
A rule of thumb that applies in dealing with the media is to get out of their way once they have arrived at press conferences and you have determined they do not need anything else from you. Making yourself accessible is still relevant, but can be achieved without standing over reporters covering an event.
You are not there to tell them how to cover the story or which speaker they should photograph. Like you, they are professionals. It is your job to provide them with everything they need, not be a journalism professor.
The same also holds true for individual interviews with personnel in your organization. As with a press conference, it goes without saying you want to greet the media when they arrive, offer them coffee or a soft drink, ask if you can assist in any manner, but then get out of their way. The presence of a handler (which is how public relations professionals are viewed when they insist on sitting in on interviews) is troublesome for two reasons:
- It implies that your speaker is unprepared for an interview and you are attempting to protect them.
- Even worse, it conveys the impression you are attempting to direct the course of the interview and have a say in how the journalist conducts things (remember, not only are you not their journalism professor, you also are not their supervisor).
Once a press conference has finished or an interview is concluded, the waiting game begins. Public relations professionals know it is their job to manage news coverage and the anticipation is always great because they know what will eventually (and often repeatedly) occur – the coverage will be there but not with the angle you anticipated.
A public relations professional should never correct a reporter’s style or angle, provided that coverage is accurate and is not slanted. Never point out grammatical errors either; let their supervisor serve as the journalism professor. Public relations practitioners who have a solid relationship with individual reporters might want to express their disappointment with the story’s direction, but avoid being confrontational.
Mistakes in coverage are different. Remedying the situation begins with attempting to point out mistakes by discussing any errors. Contacting someone above them should only be done as a last resort. In deciding what steps to take, a decision has to be made about which is more important – correcting the situation or potentially alienating the reporter.
If the situation cannot be resolved or if coverage is consistently bad, questions have to be asked of the reporter. Isolated incidents of poor coverage may be explainable – perhaps they were having a bad day. Continuing problems may need more review and possibly called to the attention of those above them, but only as a last resort. Problems with certain media also provide an opportunity for reviewing if everything is being done right on your end.
Promotion by Pitching Local News Stories
The media is always looking for stories. Sometimes the opportunity to promote yourself may come as a result of events outside your community. Achieving success in this area requires keeping up with events and savvy in recognizing how they can be utilized in promoting your product.
Helping the Media Localize Events
It is not very often when there is no major news occurring somewhere in the world. However, that can not always be said of local events in a city. Anyone who has ever watched a story about a talking dog on their local news, or read a front page story about a Halloween haunted house, knows that the media often struggles to fill up air time or newspaper space.
While such stories are interesting, they are little more than fluff pieces created out of necessity. But the constant march of human events around the world offers public relations practitioners the opportunity to pitch ideas for local stories that can be tied into news events elsewhere. Just as targeting the right audience is important, finding opportunities to tie in with news is also a goal.
That process begins with keeping current on what is happening in the news. Knowing what is happening with local and national politicians, government decisions, financial issues, and other news is important. But that alone is not enough. Public relations professionals should also keep up with what is happening in entertainment, fashion, fads, and other current events that may tie-in with the work they do.
Any disaster involving the loss of life or property, regardless of whether it happens in your community or halfway around the world, presents a chance for the Red Cross and other relief organizations to discuss their needs for blood, supplies, donations, etc. Your organization may not be involved in relief efforts but local residents will find the connection interesting. And, as mentioned in another article, it not only lets the community know what you are doing but also publicizes your organization in a positive manner.
The questions of how public relations professionals can help the media localize news are numerous, with only a few listed here:
- How could a product your company has developed be useful when there is a national report on education, population growth, caring for the elderly or other news?
- What studies have you released that address news events? Which experts on your staff could address them?
- What political and social issues that may be in the news can your policy group or religious organization discuss?
- What products do you market that could be useful for special occasions such as high school proms, high school graduations, or summer vacations?
- Do you produce seasonal items for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other important dates that could be mentioned in stories about these observances?
Answering these questions presents an opportunity to make a pitch to the media for stories they may be planning for these or related topics. Often, you may plant an idea for a story that had not been considered.