10 Mistakes in Media Relations

There are many ways to go wrong with media, but here are are 10 major mistakes:

1. Cultivating journalists, not stories

Many business leaders will point to this or that journalist as a favoured contact, perhaps having lunch once or twice a year. But they have never gained any media coverage out of it. This makes us ask: just how much does the journalist understand your business? We turn this thinking on its head – sure, we have good media contacts and enjoyable lunches, but only after we focus on delivering good media stories.

2. “Only when it suits us”

Many organizations chase media coverage when they have something to announce, yet disappear for the rest of the time, not returning media calls. Media liaison is a two-way street, and to gain the right profile and relationships, you need to be prepared to comment outside of those occasions of pure self interest.

3. Wrong place, wrong media

It’s great to gain media coverage, but is your target audience reading, listening or watching? The right profile in the wrong place is ego tripping, so it is best to be really calculating about which media outlets matter most to you. The most common mistake here is to see CEO’s gaining a high profile among their peers but not in the market.

4. Poor timing

Timing is everything in life, and no sector is more time driven than media. Timeliness of issues and angles is bread and butter to good media relaters. Those with poor timing have great media releases, for last month!

5. Flogging dead horses

The media hate dealing with “the nag," the person who is often quite right but just does not understand what drives the media. If your comment or story misses the mark this month, move on, leave it and maybe have another go in a new month.

6. Overlooking your “gems”

“We’re not very newsy” is a frequent comment, but the fact is that every activity is interesting to media, once you find the right angles and the right outlets. Hidden “gems” could be actively building your reputation. Generally speaking, people who like the business they’re in and like the people they are with also have a good profile, whereas those who think things are dull around here generally help make it so.

7. Not treating media as “impressionists”

So, the media do get it wrong, or can’t grapple with the technicalities of the issue: Big deal. Like the artists we so love, the media are “impressionists”, providing a quick and sometimes flawed insight into life. Work with that, and you will be more effective. You might even enjoy becoming a bit of an “impressionist” yourself, and your clients will no doubt appreciate that you are in the picture.

8. The big cover up

Confession is good for the reputation, and honesty should be your first plank of media policy. Countless times we see companies refusing to comment or keeping part of the story hidden. Many journalists believe that they are there to discover what we don’t want to tell them, so beware of this when you choose to make no comment about some crisis or issue.

9. Taking refuge in a low profile

This is the old “we don’t need that media stuff” approach and generally comes from people who do not get it, or lack the confidence to put their point across. Sadly, they miss opportunities and fail to use media as a reputation risk strategy. Low profile is actually high risk.

10. Speaking off the record

Our advice to clients before they meet with a journalist is to treat every comment as though it is totally on the record. Yet the desire to gossip about competitors and the industry seems to lead many into troubled waters. Media liaison should support business plans, so there is little room for gossip. Speaking off the record will eventually come back to bite you, yet surprisingly in an industry that is aware of risk management, this is an all too common mistake.

This article was written by Stephen Manallack, a communication consultant, professional speaker and published author. A larger version of this piece is featured on www.evancarmichael.com.

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