Meet the Press
It's prudent to prepare for eventual encounters with the media
(Excerpted and reproduced with permission from Gulfshore Media, Inc.)
"Public opinion can have as much influence on your company's bottom line as sales performance or productivity," says Cindy Dobyns, president of AboveWater Public Relations in Naples and president of the Public Relations Association of Collier County. "If you realize and respect the media's important role, the relationship does not need to be adversarial."
Understand Deadlines. Don't miss an opportunity to clarify a thorny issue. Nothing looks worse to the public than hearing that no one from your business was available for comment or that calls were not returned. On the other hand, don't miss an opportunity to get some positive press for your organization by having it represented as an expert in a newspaper article or TV report. "Journalists work on deadlines, so take their telephone calls or call back quickly," says Dobyns. If you don't, you can bet one of your competitors will, and they'll get the free publicity. "The early bird gets the coverage," says Dobyns. "A terrific feature might pass you by if the reporter's message is still sitting in your in-box."
Every time a member of the media calls, look at it as a chance to spread the message. If there's a crisis-a fire, a scandal, a lawsuit against the company- approach it as a way to show that your organization, amid the chaos, is handling things, stable and steady.
If the reporter's call is about something potentially negative or controversial, then take it as an opportunity to set the record straight, or at least present another side to the story. While experienced PR professionals and experienced reporters do sometimes go off the record, in order to better explain and understand a situation, this is risky ground for the uninitiated. Dobyns suggests it's prudent to live by the mantra "nothing is off the record."
If the call is for a so-called positive news report, run with it. Show the readers or audience that your organization is a leader in the community and knowledgeable about the issue at hand.
Finally, when the call has come and gone, stop and take a look back.
"Evaluate each media encounter and determine what you could have done better to communicate," says Dobyns. "Next time, you will know what to do." GB