Media Relations in Today’s 2.0 World

When surfing through the blogosphere for people writing about my same topic of media relations, I didn’t find many who wrote about it from the point of view that I do.

I’m not talking the fact that I’m a student, but that many media blogs are looking at social media, not so much traditional.

Brian Solis, for example, does nothing but write about social media and how to use it.

Social media is one thing that I have yet to really dive into and talk about on my blog, so I guess its about time, huh?

Social media is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.

Social media allows for one-on-one conversations and the ultimate networking and socializing, all at the finger tips on the user.

A point I have made in every post is that you have to build relationships in order to get anywhere in the public relations field.

From reading on Mashable, Brian Solis, and Deirdre Breakenridge‘s blogs among many other I’ve surfed through, they still retract back to relationships when talking about the 2.0 media and social networks.

After all, we’re always looking to reach our publics, so we should go where they are. Facebook has over 800 million users. Don’t you think some of your audience is among them?

Embracing social media:

  • start conversations
  • monitor conversations
  • get feedback
  • interact on a more human level
  • bring awareness to your company
  • gain customer loyalty
  • enhance customer service
  • GET INFORMATION OUT FASTER (and from the source)
  • ect., ect.

There are plenty more reasons and benefits as to why you should embrace social media. I won’t list them all here, but I will share links for you to discover more on your own:

Brian Solis, You Earn What You Deserve

Mashable, The Future of Social Customer Relationship Management

Shift Communications, It’s about the Conversations

Other blogs:

Conversation Agent

Social Media Explorer

Deirdre Breakenridge

This web 2.0 isn’t going to completely obliterate the use of traditional media, not anytime soon. But it is a great tool to building on those relationships you have already established with you customers by providing value, being genuine, and getting news out to them in a trusted and honest way by utilizing the traditional media.

And not everyone has forgotten to blog about our good friends, the reporters:

Jeri Cartwright, Rules for Talking With the Media

Mashable, How the Internet is Affecting Traditional Journalism [SURVEY]

Journalistics

Its where things are headed, we’ve already figured out that its here to stay. Embracing it and diving in to learn and grow with the fast paced changes is your best option to staying ahead of the game.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Tweets

And if that’s the case then a video is probably worth 10,000 tweets.

Something I’ve surmised from living in this new 2.0 world, and by studying public relations is that the media is what gives you your reputation.

A topic that’s been covered in multiple classes I’ve taken is reputation management.

[You’re supposed to] manage your reputation proactively, actively, and after the dust has settled. It’s a never-ending process. Even more so now with the speed at which information travels via the internet.

 Utilize the Media

Good companies can get bad press. It happens, but you can use the media to show everyone just how great you are.

 Ways to do it:

A proactive action when using the media is feature, or soft, news stories. A feature piece is one that covers an event of human interest but the reader will enjoy it just as much one day after it happens, or a month after it happens. Journalists sometimes refer to them as “evergreen” stories.

Writing a feature piece about the community work your company does such as trash pick-ups, volunteer days, community picnics, and the like will put you in the minds of your audience as a good hearted company.

Another way to be proactive is to make sure your spokespeople are trained on how to deal with the media in case they’re approached out of the blue.

When your spokespeople know how to properly sit or stand for interviews without swaying or any other nervous ticks it gives them a confident and professional image. Training them to speak clearly and with inflection will make them sound knowledgeable. The better trained they are, the better the interview will go–the better you look.

Actively managing your reputation should be the easy part. Be honest, and be genuine. Everything you or your spokesperson (or any employee for that matter) does will reflect back to your company.

Remember all those relationships you’ve cultivated? You’re killing two birds with one stone here, maintaining those relationships and your reputation. Be personable and friendly on camera and that’s how your publics view your company.

After a crisis occurs, reputation management is always necessary if the company wants to regain any credibility. The easiest way to explain this is through a hypothetical example involving an oil company we’ll call “XY.”

XY had a crisis occur on one of their oil rigs and now millions and millions of gallons of oil have poured out into the ocean killing sea life and tourism on the shores.

After the dust settles and the mess is cleaned up, XY should pump out a feature story about how great a job they did and about all the money they’re giving away, right? WRONG. These tactics aren’t going to settle well with your audience, who already quite perturbed with you.

 Actions speak louder than words. Telling someone something and doing something are two totally different things. So don’t write that story, take some action.

If I was in charge of PR for this XY company I would suggest donating money to wildlife funds, or by sponsoring events to help boost the economies of those cities affected. (Which BP did with Deluna Fest this last weekend in P’cola– smart move guys). Those kinds of things will generate their own coverage and you won’t have to beg an editor to print your story.

One screw up anywhere along the line, a drunk CEO caught on tape, a spokesperson contradicting themselves in an interview, a picture of an employee littering..can go viral in a matter of minutes. And your reputation starts to sink.

Take the steps to keep your head above the water.

A picture is worth 1,000 tweets– so make them good ones.

Insider Secrets

Last week I covered media relations from a PR professional’s point of view. This week I’m going to share some insights I gained from talking to Tom Ninestine, Breaking News Editor at the Pensacola News Journal.

A lot of what I’ve learned from Tom is parallel to what I learned from talking with Jeff last week.

When I asked Tom his thoughts on media relations he said this:

“[Newspapers] rely daily on a variety of sources to provide us with information. They all have news and information to share and we need that two-way communication open so that the information can get to the consumer”

Which brings us to the two-way communication that is public relations, the conversation. Tom is our middle man, our channel to reaching our publics, and he looks to us for information because he has people looking to him.

Building that relationship.

So, where do we start?

“Picking up the phone and introducing yourself is the easiest way to meet someone” says Tom.

He also encouraged putting a face to the voice on the phone. Ways to do this are by inviting the reporter or editor to your organization for a media tour or by inviting them to lunch.

The lunch allows for an informal meeting of getting to know one another both professionally and personally, or in Tom’s words, seeing each other as “real people.”

*ETHICS NOTE: It is important that each individual pay for their own meal. It ensures that there is no hint of bribery. Also, according to Tom it is a practice of newspaper reporters to not accept gifts.

Friendship.

I asked Tom for advice for those of us entering the field. What he had to say:

  • “Establish a relationship.
  • Be honest when providing information. If you intentionally deceive us, we’ll be skeptical about future dealings.
  • If you don’t know something, say so. It’s OK.
  • Make it clear to your bosses that if your organization decides to not comment, we will still do a story. We will print the story with or without you; we would rather have you in the story.
  • Be available. The newspaper prints seven days a week and is online for more than 18 hours a day. We rarely badger someone, but be willing to be available during off hours.
  • Remember that the people who get quoted most are those who make themselves available.”

I tried to summarize his words, but there was so much helpful information it was impossible to.

It all goes back to the relationships you build with the media as to how effective your media relations is going to be.

Building trust by being honest forms that friendship that I talked about in my last post.

Things to Remember(or to learn):

Respect the reporter: they’re busy too. Learn their deadlines and how you can help them, help you.

Write like them: The less that have to fix, the better. Learning AP style will pay off for you when working with them.

Be honest: A point to remember is what Tom said: “it’s okay to not know something.”

Be genuine: Public relations in all aspects is about building mutually beneficial relationships. Remember that and you’ll be able to make it in this field.

Our Side of the story..

“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.”

Look back to the Tylenol incident that occurred at Johnson & Johnson in 1982; the case study written by Kathleen Fearn-Banks in her book Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach.

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.

You Have to Start Somewhere..

What is media relations?

Well, to start, you have to realize that it is a part of public relations.

As defined by businessdictionary.com: “Media relations is the linkages with the media personalities and resources that facilitate an organization in getting a favorable, timely, and widespread editorial coverage.”

Let’s break it down:

  • Linkages: Can also refer to relationships.
  • Media personalities: Not just the pretty face on camera, but her editor. In order to get anywhere, you have to know who to talk to, and who is interested in talking to you.
  • Resources: Are every way of using media to get information out to your publics. TV interviews, radio interviews, articles in the paper, and more recently social media channels like blogging or social networking are all useful resources.
  • Favorable, timely, and widespread:  It is up to you to learn how to make these results happen. Building relationships with the media will bring you likability, learning their time lines and schedules will help you make your news timely, and finding the right channels for your organization will make your news travel in all directions.
All in all, its about building and maintaining good relationships with the media and utilizing the channels it has to offer for the benefit of your organization and its publics.

Media relations is my biggest interest in the field of PR. As a student approaching graduation I am excited to dive in and learn what I can, and bring you along for the ride.

I plan to bring insight from outside sources, as well as my own inferences and opinions. Using some of the contacts I have I also hope to post helpful advice from those in the field, from both the PR and media view points.

Let the journey begin!