Posts tagged ‘Media Relations Handbook’

Understanding and Responding to Different Types of Communications Crises

There is a common misconception that there is only one type of communications crises in the world of public affairs and that all crises should be responded to in the same manner. There are essentially three different types of crises: systemic, adversarial and image.

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A systemic crisis often involves something related to the organization. The employee crisis is the type that is faced whenever a workforce is affected in some manner, such as through layoffs, loss of life, Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchetc. The consumer crisis takes places whenever the public confidence in an organization is lost due to an error in operations. This would include a defective product. The consumer crisis can quickly escalate into an image crisis if the matter is not dealt with in a rapid and effective manner.

The most frequent mistake made in attempting to handle any crisis is not simply following common sense. The worst thing you can do when facing any type of crisis is to ignore the problem and not change priorities. It is important to implement the protocols you established in advance to deal with the crisis – you did that, correct? Never allow lawyers to direct the public relations policy. Do not make the mistake of trying to withhold information and always correct errors immediately.

To learn more about crisis communication, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Chapter 12 Crisis Communications in Public Affairs.

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The Ethical Choices of Public Relations Professionals

When faced with an ethical dilemma, public relations professionals ultimately have four choices available to them: avoidance, compliance, ignorance and resignation.

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Avoidance
The most ethical choice can sometimes be to avoid answering a question. If you are faced with a question that would require you to make a difficult ethical decision, keep in mind that you should not force yourself into an ethical dilemma unless you really must.

Compliance
When asked by a principal to engage in an activity that is unethical some public relations professionals, especially those who are young, will simply comply out of loyalty. This is always a poor choice that will typically lead to the destruction of one’s reputation, if not worse.

Ignorance
Traditional public relations practices have called for professionals learning as much as they could about a principal, particularly whenever they are faced with an Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchethical crisis. In some cases the most appropriate and ethical course of action would be to not ask questions during an ongoing crisis. Remember that public relations specialists are not entitled to attorney-client privilege. As a result, you can find yourself facing serious legal difficulties if you become caught up in a legal investigation and then you are forced to reveal secrets that would violate your duty of loyalty to your principal. This is precisely why some public relations practitioners choose to avoid asking difficult questions. In this case, ignorance can be used as an effective shield of protection.

Resignation
Some ethics experts will contend that whenever a professional is not able to fulfill his duty to his principal and his duty to society at the same time, there is simply no other choice but to resign. Resigning on principle is rather rare today; generally because it is not that easy to simply walk away from a job. And when an employee resigns on principle there is a clear message sent that his or her employer is engaging in unethical practices. Sending such a message, even unintentionally, can be dangerously close to violating your responsibilities to your employer.

To learn more about public relations, sign up for TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, or the 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 13.5 Ethical Choices.

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Writing Effective Press Advisories

Public relations professionals have an array of tools for attracting media attention. One of those tools is the press advisory. The press advisory is somewhat different from the press release, both in format and goal.

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The goal of the press advisory is to notify the press of an occurrence or event you want them to cover. Press advisories can be issued as far in advance of an event as necessary. Your ultimate goal is to have reporters place events on their calendars or within their futures file so they can plan accordingly to attend and cover the event. As a general rule of thumb, if you issue a press advisory more than one week in advance, it is a good idea to conduct a follow-up advisory one or two days before the event to ensure reporters have not forgotten about it.

The format of a press advisory is also much simpler than a Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchpress release. The headline of an advisory should be clear and concise, consisting of no more than two paragraphs. Key information should be given in summary form and include the event, time, place and subject of the event. It can be a challenge to provide enough information in the advisory to entice the media to cover it, while at the same time holding back enough information to ensure you do not inadvertently scoop yourself.

When writing an advisory, provide information on what reporters can expect if they decide to attend the event. When appropriate, also include background information on the organization staging the event. Also use your web site to provide additional information.

Include a note that information within the advisory is not to be released. While this may be generally understood, it is always better to be certain rather than to have information released that you did not intend to have publicized.

To learn more about making the most of press releases and advisories, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 2.7 Press Advisory

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Writing Effective Email Press Releases

The basic tool used in public relations is the press release. Ultimately, the goal of a press release is to convince the media to do a story. At one time, press releases were printed on paper, however, today press releases are most often exchanged electronically.

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The email press release is now the format preferred by most reporters. While some basic information has remained the same in the electronic press release, an email press release differs somewhat from a printed press release.

First, try to avoid attachments to your press release. Unless the reporter is actually expecting the attachment, all releases should be made within the body of the email text message. Firewalls at some news organizations will automatically block an email with an attachment.

Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford FitchThe subject line of the email should replace the headline. This is the most important line of your press release and you have an extremely small amount of space to grab the reporter’s attention. At most, you have five words to sell the story, so choose them carefully.

One of the advantages of the email press release is that you can include URL links to more information. When it comes to the basic format of the release, remember to keep contact information at the top of the release, followed by the headline and then the body of the press release. While email may be a slightly different format, reporters are still accustomed to the traditional paper format.

Make sure you never include any text formatting, such as underline, bold or tabs as some email programs ignore them. If you need to use bullets, use stars or dashes. The entirety of your release should be kept to a minimum of 500 words and between four and six paragraphs.

Always test out the release by sending it to yourself first.

Finally, if you are going to send the release out to more than one reporter, include the addresses as blind cc’s. Never make the mistake of broadcasting a reporter’s email address.

To learn more about the best way to craft press releases and other media relations tips, sign up for TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, or the 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 2.5 Email Press Releases

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Tips for Monitoring Journalist Interviews

All interviews by a journalist of your principal or organization should be monitored.

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First, you must perform a check on any possible mis-readings or errors by the reporter. Second, monitoring the interview will provide you with a better understanding of the points your principal wants to stress. Finally, you will be able to perform a more effective follow-up with the reporter, something that can be especially important if the principal makes a mistake during the interview.

While monitoring the interview pay close attention to ensure the principal does not make any factual errors. If he or she gets a number or date wrong, you need to fix it. In the event the error occurs during a broadcast interview, it will be up to you to encourage the reporter not to make use of that particular sound bite.

Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford FitchAt times you may need to either play up or play down certain points by your principal. This can be a challenge as reporters often view this strategy as a blatant form of spin. In some instances, you may have additional facts not mentioned by the principal that serve to strengthen the main point and will be relevant to the reporter. You can do this through the follow-up. By sending additional points through email you can reinforce points you would like to see appear within the story.

You also need to consider whether you want to record the interview. There may be little value in recording an interview unless it is a one-time interview and you anticipate a biased story. Blatantly recording an interview sends a message to the reporter that you do not trust them. If it is your goal to establish a long-term relationship with a reporter conducting an interview, you must work toward building a degree of trust. That may mean not recording the interview.

To learn more about effective public relations strategies, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, and the 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 8.12 Things to Monitor during the Interview.

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How to Disagree with the Media

All public relations professionals from time to time have disagreements with the media. You might be asked to research something at a time that is inconvenient or you might be forced to ask your principle a question that ultimately proves to be embarrassing. Something you write might even land you in trouble. The relationship that exists between the media and the public relations professional is typically not equal. Whenever a disagreement does occur, it is not on an even playing field.

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Public relations professionals will often be at a disadvantage–because it is never advantageous to get into a disagreement with the media. Reporters and anyone else involved with the media always get the last word. This is because they control the medium.

When you do debate a reporter, keep it polite. Most reporters will remain open-minded and can even be susceptible to some persuasion. You might find they will play the role of the devil’s advocate simply to receive an emotional reaction and receive a better quote for their story. Make an effort to be concise, get to the point and Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchkeep the discussion civil. Use documentation to refute all negative points.

Once a story has actually run, it is typically not productive to argue with the media. Your principal might feel better if letters are sent to the editor, but the truth of the matter is that the damage has already been done. If the decision is made to send a letter to the editor, deal with the facts in the story. If you attack a news organization’s credibility, you will appear undignified.

Another option you might try to use is to have a separate story run on the topic that favors your perspective. Of course, you must also recognize that a second-day story always carries some risk because it will inevitably include negative information from the first day story. And there is never a guarantee you will receive a better story the second time around.

To learn more about the most effective ways to work with the media, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 4.9 Arguing with the Media

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Preparation is Key to Taking Advantage of Opportunities in Media Relations

It is sometimes assumed that the development of a communications plan is similar to the production of a play, in which the public acts as the audience. In reality, much of the work involved in public relations can be reactionary and unpredictable in nature. It is not unusual for members of Congress to determine their strategy and their message by reviewing the daily news and then deciding how they will respond to a particular issue.

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The best work in public relations involves the creation of great plans and the adaptation of those plans based on changing circumstances. The best way to take advantage of opportunities is to prepare for opportunities in advance. Every sphere within the world of Washington public relations has its own distinct set of possible circumstances that determine the best methods for advance preparation.

Generally, the best all-in-one approach to preparing for opportunities to is to be certain you have good resources and contacts in place. This will allow you to capitalize on Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchthem whenever the need arises. This could mean reaching out to reporters you might not call regularly or compiling press contact lists that might not involve your primary subject area. Even though these actions might be outside your day-to-day work, they could prove crucial if conditions change.

In some cases, it might be better to allow some opportunities to simply pass by rather than attempt to capitalize upon them. The degree to which your operation is cautious or aggressive regarding opportunities will typically be determined by the personality of your principal or organization. Be on the lookout for opportunities that are worth pursuing. Ultimately, you must ask yourself whether the opportunity is close to your mission and whether the opportunity warrants changing your plans in order to pursue it. What are the costs if you should decide to pursue it? Will you be able to effectively pursue the opportunity during the short-term nature that is offered by the news cycle? Finally, determine the likelihood that you will receive positive media coverage as a result.

To learn more about the best ways to take advantage of opportunities as they arise in public relations, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 3.11 Taking Advantage of Opportunities

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Creating a Communications Plan

One of the earliest tasks of many new press secretaries and communication directors is the development of a communications plan. A large portion of early reviews, research and interviews will result in the development of this plan. Without the presence of such a plan, any proactive press work is virtually impossible.

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In some instances, you might enter a situation in which a communication plan is already in place. In this case, your main responsibility would be to assist in implementing that plan. If you are the only or the senior press liaison, you will likely be expected to deliver the message along with drafting the plan.

It is important to first consider the message you wish to convey when you are drafting a communications plan. You also need to take into consideration the strategic goals of your principal or organization as well as the tools available to you for communication. Communication goals may be associated with a time line. This could be a legislative calendar, an election campaign, or some other series of important events.

Communication plans should never be created from a sheer void. Recognize the individuals involved when you are considering the specifics of internal politics. It is also important to take into consideration the people who may need to review and approve the communications plan for it to become a reality. Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitch

Developing a strong communications message can be one of the most difficult aspects of the job of the public relations professional. Ultimately, your goal is a message embodied in a clear and concise statement that makes a connection with your audience in a way that is meaningful and valuable. In marketing, the message for a product is summarized in a slogan or advertising.

The communication plan you develop will define the organization, agency or person you represent in the mind of the public. When developing your communication plan, remember that messages fall into two broad categories: strategic messages and campaign messages.

Strategic messages are often broad in theme and feature an overarching set of principles that are used for guiding and shaping all communications.

Campaign messages are a subset within a strategic message. The campaign message has a time limit and is often defined by a measurable outcome.

To find out more about developing an effective communication plan, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 1.14 Creating a Communications Plan, and Section 3.2 The Message.

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Common Ethical Challenges in Media Relations

To work successfully in media affairs or public relations, you want to develop a solid understanding of the ethical challenges you can face on a daily basis. Even a seemingly innocent and routine conversation with a reporter can pose ethical questions that the public relations professional must be able to resolve in a second or two.

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One common ethical challenge the public relations professional must address is the use of language. Even a relatively simply choice of words can result in ethical implications. For instance, if you exaggerate the impact of a piece of legislation, it could be construed as trying to mislead the public. Ensuring that language is accurate and honest is not only a matter of ethics, in most cases it is more effective. Because reporters have come to view exaggerated claims as being the rule rather than the exception, you will often find that communication that is honest and straightforward is a far more convincing tool.

When posed with an ethical question regarding language, ask yourself whether the language will pass the test of the media. Will the media question the veracity of the statement you plan to issue? Will anyone Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchbe able to refute your data? Consider the credibility of any sources that might challenge your statement and your data. Be certain that the language you choose is capable of withstanding a detailed examination.

Misappropriation of credit is another common ethical challenge the public relations professional faces. Ethical problems can arise when a public relations professional feels they must “enhance” the work of their principal or an organization to the point that it extends beyond any work that was legitimately accomplished. This is a struggle that Congressional press secretaries frequently face as the matter of taking credit can be a particularly delicate issue for members of Congress as their survival depends on their ability to demonstrate achievements to their constituents. For instance, did a member only “sponsor” a bill or did they “vigorously support” it? Did they “vote” for it, or did they “champion” it? The choice of wording can make a tremendous difference in how a public figure’s role is portrayed. You must be able to back up all claims when you take credit for your principal and able to justify those claims with documentation.

To learn more about ethical matters in media relations, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 13.4 Common Ethical Challenges

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5 Mistakes to Avoid in a Crisis

Trying to avoid a crisis with the media may be well and good, but the fact is that a crisis can not always be avoided. When one does occur, it is essential to know how to handle it, and, as importantly, what you should not do.

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1. Ignore the problem
One of the most common reactions to a crisis is to ignore it and hope it goes away. This rarely works, especially when it is a media crisis. When you have a crisis, you must meet it head on and deal with it immediately.

2. Not changing your decision making model
One of the most common mistakes organizations make is to try to overcome the problem by working harder. Whenever there is a communication crisis, a team that is already overworked suddenly must take on even more of a burden. To effectively deal with the crisis, new decision making protocols must be established. In some cases, you may need to form a completely separate Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchcommunications team to specifically address that crisis.

3. Allowing lawyers to direct public relations policy
While it may be advisable to have the best attorney representing you if you go to court, when you are facing a crisis in the media you need an expert on the court of public opinion. Choose the right advocate to handle the right battleground.

4. Withholding information
If you attempt to withhold information, it will eventually come out. When that happens, it will add to the crisis and make it appear as if you are trying to hide something.

5. Not immediately correcting errors
The public understands that people are human and will, from time to time, make mistakes. When a mistake is made during a communications crisis, it is going to be amplified. If you say something erroneous, do not hesitate to correct it immediately. Failure to do so will only cause reporters to believe that you misled them on purpose. The result? They might just tell a few million listeners or readers that you deliberately deceived them. It is far better to come clean and own up to your mistake and correct it on your own.

To learn more about how to effectively handle a media crisis, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 12.15 Eight Mistakes to Avoid in a Crisis

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