Your company may not receive regular media attention–or have any intention of doing so–but it’s important to have at least a general understanding of what it is and how to approach it.
The unfortunate truth is that a lot of companies abuse media relations. A lot of this abuse comes from simply not knowing the proper etiquette and protocol for developing high-quality relationships.
With that in mind, here’s what your company needs to know about media relations:
1.) It’s about mutually beneficial relationships.
Your relationships with journalists are about more than getting your company in the media–they’re mutually beneficial partnerships.
When you’re building relationships with reporters, be sure to offer yourself as a spokesperson for your entire industry as well as your company. They might not be interested in a particular story you share with them at the time, but they may have a need for information about something related to your practice area. Make sure that you let them know that you’re there to help in any way possible and mean in.
2.) Be professional.
For some reason, a lot of people totally disregard professional etiquette when approaching media relations.
If you’re contacting a reporter for the first time then make sure to introduce yourself and be polite. Briefly talk a little bit about your company and (again) offer yourself as a resource not only for your own company, but for your industry as well. If someone doesn’t respond to your email offer a polite follow up. Usually if they’re interested they will get back to you–otherwise you may want to consider a brief phone call or to simply let it go.
Don’t be that person who gets venomous if a reporter doesn’t respond. Have the professional decency to avoid reacting on your emotions and doing something that will harm your company’s reputation.
3.) Be accurate and concise.
An extension of being professional is the ability to convey information and ideas in an accurate and concise manner. This is especially important when it comes to media relations.
Journalists don’t have enough time or patience for superfluous or inaccurate information. No one does, so be sure your communications are to the point.
4.) Have a contact person trained and ready.
You may not have a designated public relations person to handle the media–it may just be the lady in HR. Whoever it is though, make sure they are well trained.
They should understand the concepts discussed above, and they should have all the necessary resources directly on hand. This includes a backgrounder on your company, recent news, team member bios and contact information. They need to know who the best person in your organization is to talk about operations, development and leadership and be able to easily direct the media to them.
Do all that you can to make sure that this individual is the sole contact person for your media relations efforts. The last thing you want is scattered members of your staff haphazardly reaching out to the media with no purpose or poise.
5.) Be ready for crisis.
Crisis communications will make or break your company.
Gather your leadership team and brainstorm all of the worst possible events that could ever happen. Don’t ever catch yourself saying, “Oh, that could never happen!” You seriously never know. Balance your discussion with more reasonable outcomes and finalize it by figuring out what you would do. Have all of this information documented and easily accessible for your leadership team.
I recommend that you appoint and train a single point person to handle all crisis communications. It doesn’t have to be the same person who handles your media relations–a lot of companies defer to their CEO in these situations.
6.) Don’t lie.
Once a liar, always a liar in the eyes of the media. Whatever you do, be sure that you never lie.