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Media

A Reporter’s Advice on Media Relations

By | Communications, Crisis Communications, Media | No Comments

A reporter friend texted me about his frustration with communications professionals who are either hamstrung by their bosses and unable to do their jobs, or who otherwise fail to conduct media relations in a timely manner. The situation doesn’t help anyone, as no one can do their job, and the public doesn’t get the correct, or sometimes, any information. “How do we get you to teach the communications professionals in this town how to communicate?” he said.

I have taught many people how to work with the media, and especially how to communicate in a crisis. I think it’s good to hear directly from the media how they want to receive information from their sources, as a refresher for all of us. Here’s the gist of what my reporter friend wants all people working in communications to know.

  1. It’s important to say something. Saying nothing means information comes from other sources, and the rumor mill is very active.
  2. It is critical to understand how quickly rumors spread and whip people into a frenzy. Social media can make any communicator’s job even harder, as the battle to correct misinformation mounts depending on how long the true story is delayed.
  3. You really can ask for something to be off the record. We understand that there are times you can’t tell us at the time, but you CAN say, “Hey, I can’t tell you much yet, but off-the-record, don’t send everyone home for dinner just yet.”
  4. Stop trying so hard to protect your people or control the narrative. In most cases, your subject matter expert is smart, capable, and willing to answer questions. Let them. You will get grilled less often if there is regular, proactive communication. If you never say anything, it looks like you’re trying to hide something.

I’ll add to this that it is OK, in the case of a crisis to say that you don’t have all the information, while sharing what you do have (stating the facts), and that you will get back to the reporter as soon as you have more to say. If you’re waiting for your client or boss’s approval before sharing information, you can at least let reporter’s know that you’re working on it, rather than leaving them hanging.

Quick and Dirty Interview Prep

By | Media | No Comments

Say you’ve decided to a) run for office b) accept a high-profile job c) step into the spokesperson role for your organization.

Alert the media! But maybe you’ve never talked to a reporter before. Yikes, right? Here’s a quick checklist to help you prepare:

  1. Write out the most important items you want to cover in the interview.
  2. Identify the core theme of your message — are you serving kids? Immigrants? Tech gurus? What people do you serve? Make sure all your messages are about them.
  3. Practice — enlist a friend to pretend to interview. No friends? email me: marijean@jaggerscommunications.com
  4. Is this a TV interview? Prepare what you will wear. On camera, make eye contact with the reporter. Slow down, and engage with that person as if there is no camera.
  5. Anticipate difficult questions, and take extra time to prepare for them.

Break a leg! You’re going to be just fine.

 

My Favorite Media Pitch Was Inspired by an OutKast Song

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When OutKast encouraged listeners to “shake it like a Polaroid picture” we all sang and danced and, indeed, shook it. Remember?

 

But representatives of the Polaroid brand were either not amused or, in a stroke of genius, saw an opportunity to get some earned media attention, when they distributed a media pitch, urging fans not to shake Polaroid pictures.

Polaroid warns buyers not to ‘shake it’

LONDON, England (Reuters) —OutKast fans like to “shake it like a Polaroid picture,” but the instant camera maker is warning consumers that taking the advice of the hip-hop stars could ruin your snapshots.

OutKast’s number one hit “Hey Ya” includes the “shake it” line as a reference to the motion that amateur photographers use to help along the self-developing film.

But in the “answers” section on the Polaroid Web site, the company says that shaking photos, which once helped them to dry, is not necessary since the modern version of Polaroid film dries behind a clear plastic window.

The image “never touches air, so shaking or waving has no effect,” the company said on its site. “In fact, shaking or waving can actually damage the image. Rapid movement during development can cause portions of the film to separate prematurely, or can cause ‘blobs’ in the picture.”

A Polaroid spokesman added: “Almost everybody does it, thinking that shaking accelerates the development process, but if you shake it too vigorously you could distort the image. A casual shake typically doesn’t affect it.”

Polaroid said its film should be laid on a flat surface and shielded from the wind, and that users should avoid bending or twisting their pictures. Of course, “lay it on a flat surface like a Polaroid picture,” doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

 

Thirteen years later, it’s still one of my favorite PR/media moments of all time. What are your favorites?

Dear Charlottesville: How to Interact with National Media

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Charlottesville, Virginia is in the national news again. Reporters are already descending upon our city and it’s likely you’ll see and even recognize some of them. Here’s what to do:

  1. If a reporter asks you if you’d like to be interviewed, either accept or decline, but do so respectfully. This is a person doing a job.
  2. If you agree to an 0n-camera interview, look at the reporter, not the camera. Speak in short sentences and be mindful of not using local jargon. A national audience doesn’t know what “the mall” or “the corner” is, for example.
  3. You will be asked to supply your name and spell it. Just FYI. This is not the time to be anonymous or give a false name.
  4. If you are nervous, upset, happy, excited — feel free to use those words to describe how you feel about what’s going on. You could be the face of the story at hand and your feelings are what the media will want to share — about whatever is happening in the moment.
  5. Represent your city! We’re all proud of Charlottesville. This is our chance to let the nation and even the world know about our home. Think now, before you have the opportunity to speak, about three things you want the world to know about Charlottesville. For me, it’s a beautiful place, there’s much to do, and the people are, by and large, friendly and welcoming.
  6. What’s the main message you want to get across? Make it short. Write it down. Practice it.
  7. Don’t put your desire to be on television or in the newspaper above your personal safety. It’s not worth it. Get your 15 minutes of fame some other time, for something else.

 

Is it News? Check Your Pitch Against the 8 News Values

By | Media, Public Relations | No Comments

Seasoned PR people and journalists know what makes something news, and what doesn’t. We all hate to see any kind of brand or organization wasting time spinning its wheels pitching news that isn’t newsworthy. What makes something news? Check it against these eight standard news values:

  1. Proximity
  2. Prominence
  3. Significance
  4. Timeliness
  5. Human interest
  6. Unusualness
  7. Conflict
  8. Currency (newness)

Even if you’re clear on what value your pitch holds, you may struggle. “Is it enough?” In fact, it’s better for a story to have proximity, for example, AND unusualness. Conflict AND timeliness. Prominence AND human interest. More value leads to greater likelihood your story will get picked up. If you’re still unclear, scan through a list of headlines in your local paper or favorite online news source (local news may have more diversity in values than that on the national or global level) and see if the values jump out at you.