The recent interview on the Radio 702 with John Robbie and Jimmy Many of the GCIS and his words that the media has ‘tendencies’ and the reported breakdown of relationships between the SA National Editors Forum and Manyi got me thinking.
Tendencies? View points? What drives a journalist? Let’s view it from another angle.
Why engage in Media Relations? And, what are some of the rules that need to be understood?
Media inquiries, whether crisis-related or routine, are an outstanding opportunity for companies to manage the most important asset they have — their corporate reputation. Getting stories out there and addressing views about your organisation is important.
However media relations need to be seen in a context. That context involves understanding the rules of the game and of engagement.
I always like start with the end purpose in mind (a-la Covey). What is the end purpose in Media Relations?
Is it not to convey messages to targeted audiences, for example – voters – messages, whose purpose is to advance your organisation’s goals, raise its profile, and uphold its reputation?
This means that journalists becomes a means to an end and are conduits or tools. This means that the focus of Media relations is about creating an on-going dialogue between a news outlet and your spokespeople in an effort to have you or your company discussed in a positive light, in public, through a publication or broadcast.
In order to this you need to focus on creating relationships with media people. But before you can create a relationship you need to understand the rules of the game.
You need to know the rules of the game, because if you do not you may be caught out by not understanding the law, customs, conventions and standard operating procedures relating to the media. It means that you need to know how they operate and approach their job.
That knowledge in turn will shape your attitude towards journalists and editors. For instance if you distrust and dislike journalists, it will generally show and affect your dealings with the media.
I think that the media in general sees themselves as a ‘watchdog’ against big business and institutions. For example many major institutions have systems for communicating information. The entire advertising industry exists for the sole purpose of communicating good news and propaganda about products, services, companies, organisations and even organisations. You never see a press advertisement or a TV commercial telling the public what is wrong with a product or what a company failed to do. Why?
In an environment where the public is bombarded with information from advertising, public relations sources, organisation information units, ‘spin doctors’ in industry and professional associations, lobbyists and so on, journalists and editors believe that they must provide a balance by consciously and aggressively searching for the bad news. They see themselves as devil advocates, standing guard for right and truth.
If you understand that you will understand how they view their jobs, and you can then find ways to make their job easy, build relationships with them and find ways to improve communication with them. (Communication is the sharing of meaning).
For example – by becoming a trusted resource you put money in the reputation bank for the future. Becoming a trusted resource is about being available and providing relevant information and keeping them in the loop, amongst many other things.
Too often I see people focusing on how wrong the media is, blah, blah.This is a dangerous position because you stop looking at what you can do to enhance the sharing of meaning.
Perhaps by focusing on the end purpose, there will be better clarity. In one organisation the management team was of the opinion that it was not their job to make it easy for the Media to report on them. Through work shopping and working with them I was able to get them to realise that the principles of negotiation also applies to media relations. That the focus should be on win-win, and not win-lose!
Once they had the knowledge and understanding it was easier to persuade them to see the use of the media as an opportunity and not a bind.
Obviously, there are many more dynamics and rules of engagement to consider, but perhaps it does start with the end purpose in mind.