Posts tagged ‘media relations’

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.

For more information about media training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

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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

For more information about media training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

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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

For more information about media training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

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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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Engaging the Media as an Advocate and Lobbyist

Each year, countless dollars are spent on public relations efforts that are specifically designed to capture the attention of legislators. Whether it is an advertisement in Roll Call or a web site ad meant to persuade busy lawmakers and staff, a creative array of messages are developed to formulate a successful advocacy campaign.

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The media can be a powerful vehicle for disseminating information regarding policy debates. Therefore, it is necessary to have a solid understanding of the best way to work with the media as well as with media distribution resources.

Lobbyists are frequently called upon to organize media events, introduce public officials, prepare congressional testimony, and serve as a spokesperson. The message you want to deliver will be competing with an increasing number of messages. This presents increased challenges for lobbyists in getting their message out.

The rule of knowing your audience is particularly applicable when it comes to influencing public policy–the ultimate goal of legislative media coverage is to influence the outcome of public policy. Your goal is to reach critical constituents with your message. Simply gaining media exposure is not sufficient, you must influence the public opinion that actually drives legislation.

You must also plan and coordinate. An effective public relations strategy depends on anticipating your public affairs activities in advance and then coordinating the legislative and public relations staff of your organization. Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakOne of the biggest and most common mistakes many lobbyists make is failing to include media relations staff in the early stages of planning a legislative campaign. Including experienced and qualified media affairs professionals can prove to be invaluable in your efforts to develop new strategies. The key is to make sure you plan in advance.

For more comprehensive information regarding media training for government affairs professionals, consider our Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals and Advanced Media Relations Workshop. Also consider Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 10.2 Media Engagement

For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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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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Tips for Choosing an Effective Spokesperson

Regardless of whether it is a legislative press conference, congressional testimony or a television commercial, both your message and the person who delivers that message are critical. The person you place in front of the media on behalf of your organization might not be the obvious choice, like the association president or CEO.

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The first rule when choosing an effective spokesperson: do no harm. Avoid unnecessary risks and be prepared. Even one person who is unprepared can cause significant harm to your organization. Different types of spokespersons can include public relations staff, state or chapter officials, the head of the organization, individual members or employees, administration officials and subject matter experts. The best course of action is to identify and train prospective spokespersons on a year-around basis so you are ready and have more than one choice. This makes it possible for you to respond to media opportunities much more quickly.

When selecting a spokesperson, the ideal is to strike a balance between two different spokesperson types: the “professional” spokesperson such as the CEO, and the constituent or grassroots type. Asking yourself the following questions can assist in identifying the right person in advance:

Is the person knowledgeable on the issue?Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak While the person you are considering might have an impressive title, they still might not be the right spokesperson for that particular event.

Does the person have the authority to speak on behalf of the organization? In the event any kind of clearance is needed, you must know how long that will take. In an ideal situation, you develop a list of credible spokespersons well in advance of any congressional testimony or press opportunities.

Does the person have any type of negative personal history that might discredit them? If yes, what is the worst case scenario? It is always important to conduct your own research ahead of time, including asking the person directly so you can be completely prepared.

Is the person’s opinion on the issue consistent with that of the organization?

What is the worst case scenario that could occur if you choose this person as a spokesperson?

How will opposing interests view your spokesperson?

Asking yourself these critical questions before a crisis can help guide you in the selection of a spokesperson who is prepared and credible.

To learn more about dealing with the media, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Sections 10.8 and 10.9, Media Relations

For more information about effective advocacy in Washington, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net

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Developing your Organization’s Media Message

Organizations can have multiple messages they wish to convey to stakeholders and the media at any given time. There are many ways a campaign message can be created, but here are four basic steps that can help to ensure the process goes smoothly.

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First, you must have agreement on the goal of the message. There is usually little debate when the goal is clear, such as supporting an effort to get Congress to pass a bill. In some cases, goals might not be clear and it will be necessary to clarify specific goals.

Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford FitchOnce the goals for the campaign message have been agreed upon, the next step is to identify the target audience–who the message is intended for. Do some research and identify their needs and interests. Ask yourself what their values are and how those values relate to your organization. A smaller audience significantly enhances the chance that your message will be successful.

Next, you need to develop and clarify the language you will use in your message. Words serve as the building blocks for any successful public relations campaign. The language you use in the campaign is critical, and can make the difference between success and failure. The choice of words can also have policy implications–journalists are always on the lookout for inconsistency. The language you use must mesh in a seamless manner with the actual policy. When deciding on the language, also consider your target audience. Ask yourself what words and tone will resonate best with the target audience.

Test your message with your target audience. It is well worth the time and effort.

Finally, be creative. Boring messages do not succeed. Competition for the attention of the public and the media is fierce. What images and phrases can be used to connect with the audience? Make your message stand out.

To learn more about developing a memorable message, look at our 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 3.5 Campaign Message Development

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