“Tell the truth, tell it all, and tell it fast. “
The whole time I’ve been studying public relations I have heard that same thing over and over, more times than I can count.
This mantra is simple, and it’s crucial.
We’ve all seen cases in the news where an issue occurs and its dragged out for weeks longer than necessary just because someone didn’t share the whole truth, or someone waited too long to make a statement, or never made one.
Look at Tiger Woods.
Or look at BP, who did a horrible job dealing with a crisis that I personally got to see the effects of, living only twenty minutes from Pensacola Beach on the Gulf Coast. No honesty and barely any information. Our beaches were ruined for the whole summer, and we had to deal with the steep decline in tourism. BP is still trying to recover and make up for our losses.
There are steps to being able to effectively get your information out, though. A major point is the relationships you have with the media.
Jeff Rogers is the corporate communications supervisor and spokesperson at Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, located in Pensacola. Jeff has been in PR for 24 years, and is a member of the FPRA Pensacola chapter.
Jeff defines media relations as “a personal relationship with key decision makers at the media outlets as well as with the reporters.” He adds, “You have to develop a trust over time. You must build friendships.”
The relationship that Corporate Vice President Lawrence Foster had built with the media by being honest, fair and ethical paid off for him and his company.
When cyanide was found in the manufacturing plant, after the statement had been issued that there was none, he called the reporters who had come to him and got them to print his side of the story and to give it the importance they thought was necessary.
They trusted him.
The facts were kept straight and not exaggerated, and the stories were put in insignificant places in the Sunday paper. Without that relationship, Johnson & Johnson could have faced an even bigger problem.
It’s all about people.
Jeff Rogers said “You must continue to nurture all of [your] relationships as if they are the most important.”
No one outlet is enough and that includes social media, though it’s not all we need to pay attention to. We have to keep our eyes and ears open to the traditional media still today, even with Web 2.0 taking over.
Relationships are important, with your friends in the media and with your publics. But it’s always good to keep in mind that players in the media are our channel to our publics a lot of the time.
Building on those relationships and keeping up with them on a genuine and personal level, as well as professional is key.
When I asked Jeff for advice for those of us looking into media relations as a career path he said this:
“You have to love people, because that’s what it’s all about.”
That’s it. That is what it boils down to: PEOPLE.
The relationships you build will affect everything you do. Take the time, make the effort, and it will pay off for you.