So, you get a request for information from the Media. Do you act as quickly as possible, stall, ignore the request or put it on your list of things to do.
It depends. It depends on your understanding of the rules of engagement and the context in which an organization operates.
Media inquiries, whether crisis-related or routine, are an outstanding opportunity for companies to manage the most important asset they have — their corporate reputation. However media relations need to be seen in a context. That context involves understanding the rules of the game and of engagement.
I always like start with the end purpose in mind (ala Covey).
What is the end purpose in Media Relations?
It is to convey messages to targeted audiences, for example – voters – messages, whose purpose is to advance your organisation’s goals, raise its profile, and uphold its reputation. This means that journalists becomes a means to an end and are conduits or tools. This means that the focus of Media relations is about creating an ongoing dialogue between a news outlet and your spokespeople in an effort to have you or your company discussed in a positive light, in public, through a publication, or broadcast.
In order to this you need to focus on creating relationships with media people. But before you can create a relationship you need to understand the rules of the game. You need to know the rules of the game, because if you do not you may be caught out by not understanding the law, customs, conventions and standard operating procedures relating to the media. It means that you need to know how they operate and approach their job.
That knowledge in turn will shape your attitude towards journalists and editors. For instance if you distrust and dislike journalists, it will generally show and affect your dealings with the media.
I think that the media in general sees themselves as a ‘watchdog’ against big business and institutions. For example many major institutions have systems for communicating information. The entire advertising industry exists for the sole purpose of communicating good news and propaganda about products, services, companies, organisations and even organisations. You seldom see a press advertisement or a TV commercial telling the public what is wrong with a product or what a company failed to do. Why?
In an environment where the public is bombarded with information from advertising, public relations sources, organisation information units, ‘spin doctors’ in industry and professional associations, lobbyists and so on, journalists and editors believe that they must provide a balance by consciously and aggressively searching for the bad news. They see themselves as devil advocates, standing guard for right and truth. If you understand that you will understand how they view their jobs, and you can then find ways to make their job easy.
For example – by becoming a trusted resource you put money in the reputation bank for the future.
Too often I see people focusing on how wrong the media is, etc… Perhaps by focusing on the end purpose, there will be better clarity. In one organisation the management team was of the opinion that it was not their job to make it easy for the Media to report on them. Through work shopping and working with them I was able to get them to realise that the principles of negotiation also applies to media relations. That the focus should be on win-win, and not win-lose!
Once they had the knowledge and understanding it was easier to persuade them to see the use of the media as an opportunity and not a bind.