Your job is to expose the media to your organization and its leadership, mission, and employees.
We have no choice; we must come to come to terms with reporters.
Convincing media representatives that your organization is ethical, humane, hardworking and that you operate in the public’s best interest are vital ingredients to obtain fair news coverage.
Success With the Media
I wrote, “Success With the Media, Everything You Need to Survive Reporters and Your Organization” (available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon at https://amzn.com/151948965X) because I believe that organizations need to look inward to get better media results. I use contents from the book for this article.
Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Thirty-five years of supervising award-winning media relations, over fifty national and regional awards.
Members of the media may like and trust you as a spokesperson, but they may not be crazy about your organization. It obviously makes little sense for them to dislike who you work for. Considering that the very essence of your position is organizational rather than personal relations, it is essential to try to change their minds.
If the media thinks your entity is a “target” for ongoing negative coverage, then this could endanger leadership. You and senior staff must change their minds.
This is challenging to do if the news is frequently negative, but as long as your people are not being accused of illegal or unethical acts, it is more than possible to obtain objective coverage. You need to view this as a long-term project. The benefits will not be immediate.
I assume that you do not represent the International Society of Brutal Dictators. I also assume that you are honorable people doing an honorable job. I realize that within any bureaucracy there are issues better left unexposed, and people who do not improve when in the company of the media. All of that is true in any organization, but you know that you cannot change negative perceptions by sticking your head in the sand.
Go to Them
Your job is to expose the media to your organization and its leadership, mission, and employees. There are an endless number of ways that you can achieve this. Tours of your headquarters or satellite offices by news staff are a start. These trips do not have to be “on the record.” Informal discussions with senior staff or technical experts can be useful endeavors.
Keep in mind that many reporters and media management feel at odds with the world around them. They are all aware of public opinion surveys that place them as equals to, or just a few steps above used car sales people. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. You may be very surprised to find that they, like you, are looking for a little respect.
Give them the respect they are looking for. Go to them on your own or take senior staff and technical experts. Tour the newsrooms; visit with the editorial board (more on this later). Be friendly and prove to them that you are all regular Joes and Josephine’s. Leave the pompous behavior at home (better yet, discard it entirely). Reporters love to view themselves as the “people’s voice.” So I would recommend that you be one of the people, not one of “them.”
You are Selling People, Not Products
What you’re trying to do is to break down preconceived notions about who and what you are, but the media is not going to interact with the widgets you make or the social plans you create. They are going to work together with you and your people.
The trick in all of this is to get management to relax. If you and your entourage are genuinely friendly, then the media representatives you seek to influence will be gracious in return. It does not have to be any more complicated than that.
The purpose for meeting the media is to improve relations. These trips are not designed to bring up old grudges or to provide you or staff with a forum for complaints. Like any other social interplay, pleasantries must be exchanged and working relationships established before the hard bargaining begins.
These meetings are not one-way trips. If you go to them or they to you, it’s done because both of you want to come to a better understanding of each other based upon meeting each other’s needs. You need to come to that agreement internally before meeting them. Meeting needs means providing access. They will expect as much accessibility as possible. The bottom line is that you are going to have to give a little to get a little.
Social Media and Ad Campaigns
Some ratchet up their social media and advertising campaigns to counter negative media perceptions, but I fear that these efforts may backfire. You could spend millions of dollars trying to convince the public and media that negative coverage is unwarranted, but one or several unflattering articles on the front page of newspapers will wipe that out in a second.
Whether we like it or not, newspapers and other media sources speak to hundreds of thousands or millions of people, especially if the reports make the Associated Press wires. You may dislike the media, you may distrust the media, you may want to take a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, but for most of us, we have no choice than to come to terms with reporters.
Operating In the Public’s Best Interest
Convincing media representatives that your organization is ethical, humane, hardworking and that you operate in the public’s best interest are vital ingredients to obtain fair news coverage. If you portray yourself as honorable people doing an honorable job under extremely difficult conditions, the media and public may even grow to like you. But once again, you will earn the news coverage that you choose to obtain.
For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at https://amzn.com/151948965X. Your reviews are appreciated.
See my website at http://leonardsipes.com.
Contact me at [email protected].