Media relations through the eyes of an 8 year old
My first memory of media relations comes from my father’s first political campaign when I was 8 years old. After an interview, the newspaper reporter closed his notebook, put away his pen and asked my dad what he really thought of his opponent off the record. The words “inarticulate bozo” were then present in the headline of the article.
Like my dad running for office the first time, the average business does not have to communicate with the media on a regular basis and can sometimes stumble or say something that will not help them out. Most news media professionals perform very ethically and appropriately, but it is easy for lines to be crossed and messages to be mixed when a company and a reporter are not quite on the same page.
Have a plan, prepare in advance
Add a crisis situation to the mix in which a business is potentially under scrutiny and attempting to hastily repair a situation and their own reputation and the likelihood of clumsy and inaccurate communication increases. That is why it is best to have a plan and do a little preparatory work.
- If you have the resources, put a couple people in your company through media relations training if you don’t already have someone qualified and designate those people as the primary spokespersons for the company when dealing with the media.
- Develop some draft statements for problems that are most likely to arise in your company. Have those on hand for your spokespeople to use as guidance which they will tailor to the situation.
- Be as open and honest as you can be without revealing information that you cannot or should not reveal.
- Develop relationships with the media and bloggers in your market who might cover stories in your industry so that it is less likely you are communicating with a stranger in a hectic situation.
As Bob Woodward’s flap with the White House last week shows, even after a source and a reporter have known one another for years, miscommunications and personal perspectives and agendas can still come into play. But the better you prepare your company to communicate with the media – not only in crisis – the less likely problems will occur in those interactions.