Posts Tagged ‘publicist’

Four Steps to Getting the Media Story You Want

June 3rd, 2010

Waiting, in most instances, is excruciating – for kids during the night before Christmas, for patients in a doctor’s office, for anything and everything at the DMV.

Publicists and their clients sometimes get a similar sense of dread after a reporter completes a news interview.  The client’s been media trained, the reporter is all smiles, the Q&A goes well, and yet the next day’s headline crushes your client’s image and reputation.  Complaining about “gotcha” journalism and unfair questions is a useless exercise, because once the story is published or run, you can’t take it back.

A reporter’s job is to be tough and demanding, and let’s face it – a bunch of softball questions only leads to weak, fluffy content suitable for predictable feel-good stories.  That’s why most reporters rightfully work hard and push the boundaries, because they are good journalists and are inspired to deliver thoughtful content.

Still, as an interview subject, how can you handle the occasional unscrupulous reporter so your responses aren’t twisted responses out of context?  By understanding a simple principle – the intent of the interview is to build a story, and a story is assembled part by part.  As the interviewee, apply the following “quality control” steps, and you’ll be in pretty good shape.

• Script out how your ideal story will read.  Think about how a news anchor introduces a story with a lead-in: “Coming up next, in the words of [interview subject], it was an ‘amazing experience, blah blah blah….’”  That’s why it’s important to give a strong answer at the outset that helps guide the rest of the narrative.  Such an answer frames the story on your own terms, and that momentum will carry through all the way to publication or broadcast.

• Make sure you rebut critics.  You already know what your critics are saying.  Accusations about your business, political or personal activities are out in the open. When that’s the case, a news story about you will likely include comment from critics, so don’t forget to address — and rebut — their points preemptively. Otherwise you leave a big gap of story content that can be used against you.

Be positive.  Resist the urge to bad-mouth anyone.  Not only is it bad manners, but anything negative you say can easily eclipse all the positive points you make, and serves for ready-made headline material.

Stay on message. Don’t get off-track — if the interview is about your company’s new product, don’t discuss your carpool schedule, church picnic or the latest celebrity gossip. Just as your time is precious, so is the reporter’s, so don’t waste it! Plus, by staying on point, you reduce the risk of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Now go get that headline!

Five Things Every Publicist Wants the Media to Understand

April 12th, 2010

A popular discussion platform showcases media pitches gone awry, with a stern eye on the PR industry.  A few quick clicks reveal blog headlines that call publicists arrogant, begging them to “suck less” and “stop being bad at stuff” amongst other things.  While our side gets thrown a bone here and there, for the most part we get ridiculed quite mercilessly.

Of course, when publicists do something monumentally clumsy or deceitful, we deserve criticism, it’s a good way for us to improve.  Still, publicists sometimes deal with reporters who don’t seem to get that we’re all in this beautiful mess together.

Dear reporters, before you think a publicist’s only goal is to raise your blood pressure, please know the following:

Reporters help us accomplish our goals, but please remember we help you with your jobs too.  You know who writes the online bios about your interview subject, who feeds you key facts and figures about the industry you cover, who gets you that sought-after intel no one else seems to know?  Publicists do.  We realize a key headline or fantastic placement depends on willing reporters, but we are a fundamental part of the process too – please, please, please don’t forget that.

We are not encyclopedias.  The press secretary can’t be expected to rattle off every single vote a Senator ever cast; the media relations VP can’t be expected to recall the location of all 73 global offices; the intern will never know when the client’s product will launch.  When we don’t have answers, we usually ask around or go online to find out – just like you.  If you want, we will dig around and get back to you.  Not everyone passes (or likes) pop quizzes.

We too deal with tyrannical, delusional bosses and soul-crushing demands on our time.  There are many kind, thoughtful and driven people in PR who mentor junior staff and challenge them to do their best.  And, there are many work environments that encourage respect, teamwork and creativity.  But for every caring boss, there are lowlifes who berate, demean and insult their workers.  For every awesome office, there are firms with exorbitant billing requirements, pointless expectations of face time and “colleagues” who sabotage and steal your work.  Buy us a beer, we’d be happy to trade war stories.

Our jobs are also in jeopardy.  As publicists, we sympathize with the fact that the media industry is in an distressing, ongoing state of upheaval.  But know that as newspapers shutter and reporters get pink-slipped, PR firms are hemorrhaging talent at a rapid clip.  You’re not the only one wondering if that next phone call or email is HR asking us to “stop by for a friendly chat about your future.”

It all comes full circle, baby.  Good for you if you aim to be the next Cronkite; the world needs smart, demanding, no-nonsense reporters who deliver balanced and thought-provoking feedback.  But, some of you may want to join our line of work eventually, to get a taste of the alleged dark other side.  If so, you may want to think twice the next time you’re tempted to sneer at a publicist if you’re not getting the answers you want.  Thanks to social networks, endless happy hours and meet-and-greets, the publicist community is more tight-knit than you may think.  Know that gossip about a reporter’s bullish treatment and imbalanced coverage gets around very quickly.

Tale of the Tiger, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hire Public Relations Crisis Management

November 28th, 2009

In a crisis situation, clients with high visibility often are lost on the best way to interact with their crisis counselor.  In the crisis management industry, what role does the public relations specialist play when helping a client?

Take this weekend’s Tiger Woods story – or debacle, depending on who you ask.  We can thank the era of the rapidly evolving media platform for broadcasting a torrent of details in the past 24 hours.  The narrative already involves the world’s best golfer, a supermodel, possibly a mistress, rumors of prescription medication, a car crash, the parties avoiding police investigators, and who knows what else.

Here’s how smart PR crisis management should approach this media lightning rod:

First, when it comes to crisis communications, a competent public relations firm must adopt strict confidentiality protocols similar to those of a lawyer or physician.   The public relations industry doesn’t have a licensing system like law or medicine (though perhaps it should!), but a letter of engagement or contract for services must include non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”) principles.  As with these other professional services, confidentiality encourages frank discussion about the client’s problems, which allows the publicist to generate creative, thorough solutions.

Second, the publicist should recommend crisis communication steps only when they believe the client has provided all the facts.  That way the first public response – which is likely the one most media will cover immediately – can address all pertinent details and define the terms of the debate before any outspoken commentator or enemy does.  You can take control of the story and then begin driving the narrative the way you want it to go.

Third, any crisis communication plan must NEVER, ever say “no comment.”  The veritable confession of guilt before the media’s eyes, “no comment” begs reporters, pundits, bloggers and anyone else to speculate on what really happened instead of you telling people the actual facts (see the second point above).

Crisis management 101 rightfully instructs the embattled person to run straight into the crisis so you can wrestle it to the ground.  Each crisis situation is unique in its own details, but like the laws of physics, the fundamentals remain constant.  It’s a long weekend, so Tiger’s publicists still have the chance to steer the narrative favorably to their client before everyone beats their Thanksgiving hangover and gets back to the grind Monday morning.  The clock is ticking…