Chapter 11, \"Getting Along with Journalists\"
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Getting Along With Journalists Chapter 11
Media Relations Importance
Media relations is the core activity in many public relations jobs One survey of 539 large companies found that media relations was the No. 1 job responsibility of their PR departments In other words, PR personnel are the primary contact between the organization and the media
A Love-Hate Relationship
PR professionals and journalists often have flashpoints of friction and distrust But they also realize that they are mutually dependent on each other One survey found that two-thirds of journalists do not trust PR people But at the same time 81 percent say they need them anyway Points of contention can be excessive hype, advertising influences, sloppy reporting and tabloid journalism
Media Dependence on PR
Today’s reality is that reporters and editors spend more time processing information than gathering it first hand Much of the information that appears in and on the news comes from public relations sources Sources: steady stream of news releases, features, planned events, and tips to the media PR represents “information subsidies” and “unpaid reporters” to the news media Still most journalists are loath to admit any reliance on PR sources because they think it reflects negatively on their abilities as reporters
PR Dependence on the Media
PR’s purpose is to inform, to shape opinions and attitudes, and to motivate This can be accomplished only if people receive messages constantly and consistently The media, in all their variety, still are a cost-effective channels of communication They are the multipliers or conduits that enable millions of people to receive a message at the same time The media serve as “third-party endorsers” of your information, giving it credibility and importance– when media gatekeepers deem it “newsworthy”
Today’s PR pros are less dependent on the traditional mass media to reach large audiences The Internet allows PR to bypass the traditional media and its filtering gatekeepers Some have called this the “democratization of information” in which anyone now has the ability to communicate on a global scale
Journalists Complaints about “Flaks”
According to a PRWeek survey, the most common complaints about PR people are: Lack of familiarity with editorial requirements and format Poorly written materials and lack of local angle Too many unsolicited emails and phone calls Lack of knowledge about the product or service they are promoting Repeated calls and follow-ups
PR Complaints About Journalists
Sloppy in their accuracy Often don’t take time to do their homework Media credibility is undercut when publications link advertising contracts with the amount of coverage that an organization receives– especially among some trade press and specialized magazines (beauty, fashion, auto and home decorating magazines, for example, are wellknown for running articles, layouts and other features that promote their advertisers Publications and broadcast programs that engage in sensational journalism require special handling and precautions
When a Reporter Calls
Who are you? What is the story about? Why did you call me? What are you looking for from me? Who else are you speaking with? Are you going to use my comments in your story? When is the story to run (or air)?
DURING THE INTERVIEW Have a key points(s) in mind you want to convey Link answers to keys Prepare for worst questions
Don’t lie, tell half-truths, exaggerate, or brag Use examples/anecdotes Be quotable-30 sec./less Don’t let reporters put words in your mouth Never say “no comment”- conveys hiding info/guilt Try to give reason you can’t comment, offer alternative information, or buy time Be careful of “off the record” comments- assume anything you say will appear in print or broadcast Discuss only activities and policies within your area of responsibility
When to Hold a News Conference
The two major reasons for having a “newser” are to give all media an opportunity to hear the announcement at the same time And to provide a setting where reporters can ask follow-up questions. Hold news conferences when: An announcement of considerable importance to a large number of people in the community needs to be made A matter of public concern needs to be explained Reporters have requested access to a key individual, and it is important to give all media equal access to the person A new product or an invention in the public interest is to be unveiled, demonstrated, and explained to the media A person of importance is coming to town, and there are many media interview requests A complex issue or situation is to be announced, and the media need access to someone who can answer their questions
News Conference Factors
Scheduling: set a time that is convenient for reporters; consider their deadlines Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings are best for daily papers and broadcast media Avoid dates/times when other major news events are going on Location: Try to make convenient for media to reach And the room or outside setting must have necessary facilities for print and b’cast media Plus if you are going to stream it live, make sure that’s technically set up and rehearsed Allow media to come an hour or two before to get ready
Consider how your setting, stage, backdrop will look to audience and on TV/papers Invitations: Invite all reporters, influential bloggers, and govt. leaders Better to invite too many than omit some who may feel slighted If it is streamed or transmitted by satellite invited appropriate media nationally and internationally to view Printed or faxed invitations should be sent 10-14 days in advance and should be marked RSVP so that you can make appropriate decisions regarding room size, number of media kits needed, special equipment, etc.
During/After the News Conference
They should be well organized, punctual and short, not running more than one hour Statements by spokespeople should be relatively brief, allowing reporters to ask questions At start or before lay out ground rules with the reporters there After, spokespeople should be available one-on-one interviews PR person should be available rest of day for follow up calls and questions Contact reporters who were interested but could not attend, to fill them in/possibly arrange an interview
Media Relations Checklist (p. 297)
Know your media Limit your mailings Localize Send newsworthy information Practice good writing Avoid gimmicks Be environmentally correct Be available Get back to reporters Answer your phone Be truthful
Answer questions Avoid “off-the-cuff” remarks Protect exclusives Be fair Help photographers Explain Remember deadlines Praise good work Correct errors politely
Irritating phone calls– “Did you get my release?” Assume it has been received, find a fresh angle Inappropriate requests- Don’t call reporters to ask when a story will be used Don’t ask for a tape of the report (TV) or to see a story before it runs/airs Lunch dates- lunches need to be about businessbe sensitive about who pays for what Gift giving—avoid or keep nominal, more can raise questions about “influence buying”
Crisis Communication Tips Key is to become a credible source of information
“No comment” fuels hostility Always try to be helpful Be familiar with print and broadcast deadlines Get to know the journalists in your area before a crisis hits Appoint a credible spokesperson Set up a central media information center Provide a constant flow of information on the organization’s website Be accessible Keep a log of media calls and return calls promptly Be honest, don’t obscure facts or exaggerate– if you’re not sure of something say so, say you’ll try to find out