How Healthy Are Your Media Relationships? © 1993 Tina Whitfield

media relations

[First published May 1993]  

Public Relations is defined in the New American Encyclopedia as “the fostering of goodwill for a person, corporation, institution, or product.”

Solid PR considers the importance of goodwill at every growth stage of the business.  The delivery impact of a company’s news is directly related to the strength of goodwill developed with editors, news professionals, and business analysts.

To find your PR quotient, take the following Media Relations (MR) quiz.

  • Are you surprised to see reports of your quarterly earnings the focus of negative discussion in spite of positive revenue opportunities on the horizon?
  • Have you received wonderful reviews, which fostered your media confidence, only weeks later to see your company grilled over the coals?
  • Does you company have a media relations policy?
  • Does your company respond to calls from the media in a timely manner? (Timely in news jargon is immediately.  This is important to know because some reporters are deadline centered).  If so, are all the media calls forwarded to the appropriate spokesperson who can answer a reporter’s questions with accuracy and thoroughness?
  • Do you believe the media is “out to get you?”
  • Do ALL your senior executives know the first and last names of key editors and producers from your industry’s print, (digital), and broadcast media?
  • When you call, do editors accept your calls or return them immediately?

Your answers may now have you considering your MR potential.

This philosophy of good will extends to all persons in a company who interface with the media.  Selling a story requires a sensitive assessment of the individual needs of each editor and producer.  The resulting benefits include good lineage in print (and digital) media and increased airtime on broadcast (and digital) media.

A significant addition to generating goodwill is building a personal relationship with each editor and producer.  You will discover that they will strongly support your message through editorial and through association.

Editors and producers are the customers of the PR professional.  A successful sale requires that due diligence is given to each medium’s particular editorial requirements.  Some wise ways to achieve healthy communications with the media include:

  • Developing a Working Backgrounder that can be tailored to the angle or “hook” that each news professional is seeking.  The Backgrounder serves several purposes.  Its primary purpose is to provide a working document that summarizes why a story is newsworthy.  The key ingredients for a successful story include a hook or angle, inspiration, history, and executive vision.
  • The secondary purpose takes advantage of the cost of publishing print media (pages vs. advertising income).  Many editors will opt to publish solid, well-executed Backgrounders word-for-word rather than draft their own articles.
  • Moreover, the Backgrounder provides a template for all who speak to the media – allowing employees the ability to communicate to clients, vendors, and business partners in one voice – there is consistency of thought and deed.
  • The Backgrounder also becomes a source document from which to extract information when writing publicity releases about products, partnerships, and customers.  Again, there is one voice illuminating the company publicly.
  • Understanding the politics of journalism will serve your ambitions.  Politics involves knowing what we can rely on from people.  Responsiveness, courtesy and mutual respect – the key attributes in reliability.
  • Wisdom follows that exclusive interviews promised to more than one media, even if a different bent is provided, will decrease reliability.  And, if an editor has been offered an exclusive, courtesy as well as good sense encourages providing that editor with first right of refusal before offering the story to someone else.
  • Always keep in mind the relationship when selecting an editor.  This is crucial in a damage control situation. When crisis management requires public disclosure, the reporter that is your strongest ally will present your company’s issues fairly.

Every executive from corporate titans with external and internal public relations counsel to the entrepreneurs and small business owners will benefit from good PR beginning with good MR.


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