Media Opportunities Must Meet Goals Listed in Your Communications Plan

Every media opportunity, regardless of medium, should meet a message goal. Often, reporters or even members of a corporate public relations team will have goals that do not meet the overall communications plan.  Before granting interviews (electronic or print), podcasts, public speaking engagements, etc., executives must know how their participation meets corporate goals.

For each communications opportunity, ensure that there is communication between the public relations professional and the reporter so the public relations professional can determine the potential goals of the reporter that may be “off topic.” The public relations professional should always prepare executives for potential land mines that may be contained in an interview.  Some of this research should include information about the outlet for which the reporter works as well as the type of articles/interviews that have been published by that particular media source.  With the vast amounts of media sources, this preparation is crucial to meeting the goals of your company’s communications plan.

Be Careful with Media Placements
Yes, even the internal public relations professional get off topic.  Make sure that your business isn’t redesigning a Web site, conducting interviews, or placing stories in publications just to earn press and legitimize their existence.  Every one of these endeavors are worthy if they are meeting your communications goals.  Don’t, however, let opportunities to meet real goals go to waste by partially meeting goals when opportunities do arise.  Having a profile of your CEO in business publications for earned media may not be well-timed if it appears the month prior to a major product launch in which you are going to seek more earned media from those same media sources.

Every business, regardless of size, should have a communications plan, as part of the overall business plan and every executive, even if they aren’t a public persona, should familiarize themselves with the plan and the goals that are written within it. Public relations should be much more than writing an annual report. The plan should have specific media goals that create order out of chaos. Remember to be flexible because event the best plans change. Those who adapt to changes in the marketplace and excel at taking advantage of those opportunities are the businesses that will excel in competing for new clients and customers. 

Understand the difference between strategy and tactics and realize your role in carrying out the goals of your business. In public relations, in its simplest form, strategy is the development of the message and tactics is the method of delivery.  Some executives get frustrated when they are asked to deliver a message but are not in the room during message development. They often question why the company is saying one thing and not another.  Normally, the more communication the better, but there are times when information is on a “need to know” basis.  Normally, when these issues occur, it is due to a legal issue or a crisis.

Staying On Message
To ensure that your legal team and public relations team are working together during a tough legal time or crisis, executives should ensure that these two departments have communications on a regular basis prior to the crisis.  A crisis is not the time for organizational chart power struggles.  Realize and help your public relations team understand that there are times when communications goals will take a back seat to legal goals, but if the public relations team understands the legal challenges, they will be able to help position the company for excellent communications once the crisis has passed.

When facing a crisis, it is important for both legal and public relations teams to understand the immediate and long-term goals of the organization.  While “no comment” is never a good strategy, it is necessary at times to take a “bunker” strategy when facing a legal dilemma or crisis.  A communications plan during these times is imperative to making a crisis an opportunity. 

Prior to starting an executive communications program, each executive should have appropriate media training.  For smaller companies, this could be a short class taught by the internal public relations staff. In larger companies where a mistake by an executive could lead to a botched product launch or a decrease in the price of the company’s stock, businesses might want to invest in media training consultants.

Goals are key to any successful business.  Nearly every business has goals for sales, stock prices, product launches, brand awareness, corporate awareness, and employee retention, just to mention a few. Many businesses, however, neglect to set communications goals and map how their communications goals help the organization meet or exceed their other goals. 

Can your communications plan help you introduce a new or existing product to new customers?  Will utilizing social media sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help your organization exceed its sales goals or will engaging in these activities distract your public relations team from meeting the goals listed in your communications plan? Make your business plan succeed by creating an effective communications plan that lists your goals and how your communications efforts will help you meet and exceed all the goals of your business.

This is excerpted from PR News' Media Training Guidebook 2009 Edition. It was written by Jamie Miller, a public relations consultant specializing in political campaign management, strategic planning, public relations and crisis communications. To order this guidebook or find out more information about it, visit