Friday, June 30, 2006

Working with the Media

When the opportunity to work with the media arises, follow these guidelines in order for your experience to run smoothly and effectively.

- Expect the development of relationships with the media to be long-range efforts. With this in mind, have a designated spokesperson. This provides media representatives with a consistent point of contact and a basis upon which to build a working relationship.

- Your primary mode of communication should be face-to-face or telephone contact. When speaking with representatives of the media, be honest and accessible. Also familiarize yourself with the publication, show or style of the individual reporter.

- When the media contacts you, be sure to return calls promptly and be sensitive to their deadlines. If you’re not prepared when the media approaches you, offer to call the reporter back before deadline.

- When you contact the media, accept that they’re busy. Be concise, get to the point and use plain English. Never patronize, but at the same time never assume that they have in-depth knowledge about your issue. Leave concise and specific voice mail messages and give them plenty of lead time

- Maintain control of the conversation. Ask questions, assume that nothing is ever “off the record” and don’t let the reporter put words into your mouth.

- Interactions with the media need to be a strategically planned effort. Think before you speak and know in advance the points you want to make. "No comment" is a comment; "I don't know" is not a sin.

- You can ask to see a story before it's published, but don’t expect the answer to be yes. It depends on the outlet and their policies.

- Be sure to follow up and thank the reporter if the story is even remotely good. Complain only if the story is factually wrong but remember to always act professionally. It’s seldom worth it to fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

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