Len’s Rules for Successful Government Media Relations

by admin on July 24, 2010 · 2 comments


Rules for Successful Government Media Relations

State University Media Relations Course Outline

Gentlereaders: What follows is an outline for a course on media relations I taught at a state university . Best, Leonard Sipes

Please Understand

  • This is the world’s biggest guessing game
  • Experienced PA people violate most rules sometimes
  • Being right 95 percent of the time means being wrong sometimes
  • Everyone has biases including the media

Your Reputation

  • How the media sees you
  • Hopefully, you decide the quality of media coverage you get
  • Your reputation (and that of your agency) means everything
  • Setting the agenda
  • You can’t fool the media
  • What politicians do and what corporations do you can’t do
  • Everything needs to be seen on the long run
  • The best public relations is preparation followed by more preparation
  • There are two kinds of truth; 1. What government believes and 2. What any fool can plainly see (From “Call the Briefing”) or bureaucracies lie to themselves all the time.
  • Style (open and friendly) is just as important as substance
  • Your reputation for honesty will put out many negative fires
  • Know as much about your agency as possible

Talking to the Media

  • Never lie to the media
  • Do not tick off the media unnecessarily
  • Treat all media the same
  • You can’t spin a story
  • Employees and management talk to the media
  • Reporters will often tell you as much as you tell them
  • Telling the truth pays multiple dividends
  • Good government relations people co-produce stories
  • Style (open and friendly) can be just as important as substance
  • Reporters are looking for is a little respect
  • Most reporters play by the rules
  • You can defend yourself against unfair reporters
  • There are times when the media is simply unfair in their reporting
  • Sometimes, e-mail responses and terse statements are necessary
  • You need to know how to take a hit (unfair reporting)
  • Fewer reporters means more opportunities for relation building
  • Talking off the record is a common, every day event
  • Your day-to-day media does not want to burn bridges
  • You don’t have to do the job of the reporter—it’s their job to ask questions
  • The new media (community newspapers, bloggers, social media people) do not play by the same rules
  • Reporters are reporters first,  friends second

Proactively telling your Story

  • Contributing to the agenda
  • You need to tell your own story to as many people as possible
  • Some in your agency can be your biggest impediment in telling your story
  • Your bureaucracy is the same as the media’s bureaucracy
  • Social media
  • Podcasting (radio)
  • Podcasting (television)
  • Blogs
  • Style (open and friendly) is just as important as substance
  • You must tell both sides-you must be honest-you must be fair
  • You must be interesting
  • Story-based articles and products


  • The media is part of any emergency resolution
  • Preparation followed by more preparation
  • Hold brass for policy
  • Equipment is vital
  • Emergencies can set a negative reputation for years to come
  • Interagency cooperation is necessary

Media Issues

  • Issue of press coverage of crime has been with us since colonial times
  • Pew research on media—what the public thinks
  • Gallup research on the media-what the public thinks
  • Know the literature and places you can go to get information
  • Simple stories (murders and fires) are interesting stories


mercurial safari August 27, 2011 at 2:40 am

I am aware this if away from topic but I’m researching starting my personal weblog and had been wondering what all is essential to get create? I’m assuming creating a blog like the ones you have would cost a new pretty penny? Now i am not very world-wide-web smart so I am not 100% certain. Any suggestions or advice could be greatly appreciated. Kudos

admin August 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

Hi: Please contact me at leonardsipes@gmail.com and I can provide suggested resources. Doing what I do is less expensive than most people think. Best, Len.

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