How to be media friendly

A great deal of public relations effort still goes into courting media coverage and to maximise your chances you naturally need to be media friendly. So try comparing your organisation against this ten-point checklist and see how you perform. I’ll be very surprised if you can say you’re doing all of this and more!

1. You have helpful people who know the organisation inside out as the first point of contact for journalists. These people see themselves as facilitators not gatekeepers, and are known by your switchboard, whatever the country. Their contact details are easily found and include direct-dial phone numbers and out-of-hours mobile numbers. These always get answered and never go to voicemail. The nominated out-of-hours person has the personal mobile phone number of your organisation’s chief executive.

2. Part of your website and content is dedicated solely to visitors from the media seeking information and resources. It doesn’t mandate registration, qualification or log-ins. It includes a well-thought out FAQ, RSS feeds and searchable content, intelligently tagged to deliver the best results quickly. Sweden’s Swedbank clearly understands this. These media resources include company logos and images, and how they may be used is well thought-through: you can deliver what you promise. All images are downloadable in numerous formats depending on the intended final use. You include up-to-date transcripts of any significant speeches and slide decks of presentations given by the executive team. You have relevant B-roll video/audio clips and any stock footage you can make downloadable, filmed, formatted and edited to comply with broadcasters’ needs. Perhaps you’ve pulled all this content together using something like MyNewsDesk. You have a list of subject experts and a news archive showing how the company has been reported.

3. When you receive a media enquiry, you follow a simple handling and escalating process. Your front-line spokespeople are empowered to speak on behalf of the company because they are viewed as vital, trusted members of the organisation’s ‘inner circle’. They know what’s going on; what they can and cannot talk about and where to direct calls outside their level of authority. You have a KPI for returning, handling and closing media calls.

4. Your executive team accept their collective role as custodians of the organisation’s reputation. They will leave a meeting to talk to a journalist on deadline. You always try to field the most appropriate senior executive first but you know who their deputies are just in case (no mobile signal, illness, etc).

5. Senior managers know who deals with the media in your organisation. They respect them and prioritise their requests.

6. You hire photographers and videographers with a background in news media. They guide you on the style and format of photo-calls and corporate shoots.

7. You and your management colleagues make an effort to build a healthy stock of relationship capital with important journalists, recognising that it may help you at some future point.

8. You only ever make promises you can be certain to deliver, whether it’s the availability of a senior executive for a live TV interview in 3 hours or a routine return call in 5 minutes. Deadlines are never missed.

9. You understand what a sound-bite is and how to give one. You help journalists even when there is no immediate benefit to you.

10. You resist the natural urge to complain when a reporter gets something wrong, accepting that it will sometimes happen because of the unique nature of the job.

I’ll stop at this point, although I haven’t covered social media, search optimisation and several other vital areas. This post helps to explain why some organisations are set up to fail and some are set up to excel when it comes to media relations. Which one are you? If you found this valuable please share it and be sure to add your own experiences or views in the comments section below. And to reward you for reading this far, I’ve posted this interview with Quentin Tarantino in which he becomes distinctly unfriendly when a reporter asks a legitimate question he happens not to like. The action happens at 4 mins 35 seconds into the clip.

Credit: thanks to Jane Bird for reviewing this article. Jane was awarded Recruitment and Engagement Journalist of the Year in the Towers Watson Excellence in HR Journalism Awards 2012

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