Posts tagged ‘Media training’

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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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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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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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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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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Writing Effective Newsletters

Newsletters can be delivered electronically, but there are still differences that set them apart from web sites. One of the most important differences is that while people visit a web site when they need to find something specific, a newsletter is personal and provides the basis for an ongoing relationship regardless of how it is delivered.

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When creating a newsletter, keep the content subject-oriented, not self-congratulatory. The content of the newsletter can be persuasive but avoid appearing merely self-serving.

One goal of sending out a newsletter is to encourage people to visit your web site, so include links throughout the newsletter that link to Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchspecific sections of your website.

The newsletter should include information that is not yet available to the general public. By providing details that are not yet available in the off-line media you will be able to encourage your readers to continue looking for the arrival of your newsletter.

One question asked about electronic newsletters is how often they should be sent. There are no hard and fast rules for how often you should send out electronic newsletters. Newsletters that provide interesting and relevant information can be sent on a daily basis. Other newsletters are better suited for a weekly format. If you separate your newsletters by more than a month, you run the risk of readers forgetting you. However, providing your readers with information that is timely and relevant is more important than sticking to an arbitrary schedule. If something newsworthy has occurred, feel free to send out a special edition even if it is not yet time for a new edition to be sent.

Finally, offer recipients the choice of HTML or text versions of your newsletter. Some people simply do not want to have HTML files clogging up their email, while others prefer the flexibility it provides, so give them a choice.

To learn more about good writing, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Writing Workshops. To learn more about communicating effectively with the media, consider their Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 6.1 Tips for Email and E-newsletters

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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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Connecting your Message with your Audience

When you develop a communications plan, the goal is to get your message across to your intended audience. To connect your message with your audience, there are six common techniques you can use to accomplish your goal.

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One of the most persuasive tools in any communication plan is the use of numbers. However, make sure your numbers are solidly researched. Research them, double-check them, and then check them again. Statistics can be moving targets and you do not want to find yourself in a position of delivering a message that contains outdated or inaccurate statistics. One outdated or incorrect fact can cause the audience to question the remainder of your message.

Convey to your audience specific examples. Examples allow you to illustrate to–and connect with–the audience the way in which something functions in the real world. Do not just tell your audience something; provide them with an example that demonstrates how your proposal provides specific benefits.

Demonstrations can also be quite persuasive regarding any issue related to technology Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchor science. Taking your audience through a piece of software or a website is much more effective than simply trying to convey that experience through the use of words.

Analogies can be extremely powerful. Analogies provide an easy way for the audience to connect to your message–they also provide interest and appeal to your presentation.

Bringing out a real individual who can tell a real story is much more persuasive than trying to use an expert or politician to get your message across to the audience. It is one thing to tell your audience something and something entirely different to hear the same thing from a real person that inspires compassion in the audience.

Another effective technique is to draw upon the memories of the audience and their own life experiences in order to persuade them of your position. Personal memories and experiences are powerful and compelling.

To learn more about connecting with your audience and communicating effectively with the media, consider our Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 3.10 How to Connect your Message with your Audience.

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