How to Make Sure the Media Gets Your Story Straight
As a PR pro, you’re responsible (at least in part) for your company’s brand. And it’s up to you and your team to make sure it’s well-represented in the media.
You have the end in mind. You know what you want and (most of the time) you know exactly how you’ll get there. This story is no different and, as usual, you have a well thought out plan. You did all the leg work and you’re ready to pitch to key media.
So how do you make sure your story doesn’t get lost in a game of broken telephone? How do you get the media to re-tell your story the way you intended? Guarantee the facts don’t get twisted? “Controlling” the message is one of the things many PR folks struggle with.
However painful it is to admit, the reality of media relations is that you can’t control everything. Period.
You will never dictate what gets covered and what gets tossed. You’re not paying for coverage—that’s what advertising is for. And you don’t work in the newsroom, so you don’t make those calls.
Dealing with traditional media, influencers and all the implications of social media—it’s tough. Accept the things you cannot change. And practice the things that make sure you, and your company, are well-represented when dealing with key news media.
Here are a few ways to make it easier on yourself and to help make sure media re-tell your story the way you intended.
Build Positive Relationships
Getting your story straight begins with positive relationships. And the key to making the important relationship between journalist and PR pro work is having mutual understanding for one another’s goals.
It’s important to know your audience. Ask yourself: Who are the journalists covering your business? What are their areas of interest? Spend some time trying to understand what those journalists are really looking for. Make it your job to add that personal touch.
Patrick White, Managing Editor of the Huffington Post Quebec, says their newsroom receives alerts from a variety of reputable news sources. “We’re already monitoring the news, so we see it.” Because many journalists rely on news alerts from reputable newswire services, they know what’s in the pipe. You’ll definitely be covering your bases if you pitch and follow up. Time is everything for PR pro and journalist alike. So be respectful of it.
Put in the effort to build mutually beneficial relationships with key journalists.
Re-humanizing the process isn’t a bad idea either. Electronic communication has done a lot to shorten time and distance, but it has also helped us forget that real live people are on the other end. Remember you’re dealing with people (that’s your job). And in the world of media relations, these connections are your lifeblood. Treat them as such. Remember you’re dealing with people (that’s your job). And in the world of media relations, these connections are your lifeblood. Treat them as such
Issue a Press Release
This just in: a well-crafted news release is still a surefire way to spread the word, and to make sure your message is reaching the right audiences. Using a trusted newswire will ensure your news is directed to the right people.
Nothing beats good content. The best releases usually answer the 5 Ws right away: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Craft your story for the market you’re targeting.
Stick to the facts. And give the readers the information they need and want.
Be careful not to send emails with large documents or photos attached directly to media. For one, it can increase your chances of your message being marked as spam or even bounce-back if it exceeds attachment limitations. It also means that journalists or editors need to spend extra time opening attachments to understand your pitch—highly unlikely in today’s time-strapped newsrooms.
Instead, using a newswire service will deliver your content directly and immediately to the audience you’re trying to reach, with no extra steps required for them to understand your news. This is particularly advantageous for multimedia assets you’ve included with your release. Because documents, images and videos maintain integrity across the wire, journalists can see the big picture right away and use the asset exactly as it was intended, without having to put in the time to open or reformat several files. This is the most reliable way to make sure your content is reaching your audience exactly as you presented it in the first place.
High-quality and related multimedia content will help tell your story in a multifaceted way.
Images, videos and charts—these visuals help readers interpret the facts the same way you have, which means your message will have a better chance of being understood the way you thought it would be. Consider using infographics when a photo isn’t available (or suitable). They’re a great way to pack in a lot of useful information without having to include long explanations in your release.
Live-streaming events like annual shareholder meetings or webcasts, event photos, social media messages—all of this content counts as multimedia.
Patrick White says video is the favorite these days because it’s key to telling the whole story. Page views are the driver and, he says, “every time you add a video, insert an image or integrate social media—each asset is adding value to your post.”
Multimedia assets enhance news release readership. The highquality photos and videos are something reporters will look for, because it means they won’t have to spend time doing it themselves. Giving journalists exactly what they’re looking for, in the format they use, will reduce inaccuracies and misinterpretations.
Host an Online Newsroom
Making company information, fact sheets, earnings information, news releases and multimedia assets available electronically is helpful when journalists are looking for the details.
According to its Electronic Communications Guidelines, the Toronto Stock Exchange “strongly recommends that all listed issuers maintain a corporate web site to make investor relations information available electronically.”
An online newsroom gives audiences 24-7 access to your news. Host this information in one space because journalists won’t waste time sifting through droves of information or having to click through layers upon layers of web pages. It’s a good idea to manage this type of site yourself so you can immediately upload your news while it is still news.
Constantly-updated and current information will do wonders for your marketing strategy and, if you do things right, search engines will reward you. Many of these sites come with detailed analytics. So you’ll be able to get some hard results your team can analyze and use to determine success.
Yet another good reason to have a self-managed site is in anticipation of a crisis. You should have a dark site waiting in the wings in case a crisis strikes. It should be populated with important information pertaining to the crisis and it should be ready to go live at a moment’s notice. In a situation like this, journalists will be looking for the information anyway
But remember: online newsrooms and dark sites are still an extension of your brand so they should still look and sound like you.
Keep a Record
When it comes to media relations, intelligence and knowledgesharing should always remain top of mind. Don’t lose control of your own message. Record-keeping will come in handy to help you stay on message and align your team to do the same.
Prepare. If you’re speaking to a journalist about a story directly, get your key messages written out beforehand and have them in front of you during the call. Do some research; know who it is you’re speaking with, where the individual is based. Do you know the last time someone from your company spoke to this reporter? Has he or she covered your news before? Who from your team knows the reporter? Should it be you answering the questions, or someone else?
A journalist may also call back to clarify some facts, or ask some follow-up questions. You should know by now that deadlines rule; and a journalist will seek out a colleague if you’re not available. Make sure your team is equipped to stay on message. Keep these details in a centralized database, accessible to the necessary people on your team.
This database is a good place to keep notes on those areas of interest, beats, and topics that journalist covers specifically. This will help you and your team stay organized when dealing with key media.
Ask. You’ve answered their questions; now don’t be afraid to ask questions. Always verify that the reporter heard what you said and ask them to repeat your response back to you. If needed, correct the facts so you can focus on your interpretation.
Stay on message and don’t assume. Make sure and don’t be shy about clarifying.
Patrick White offers this advice: “never answer hypothetical questions.” State what you don’t know and make it clear that you can’t predict the future. Explain what it is your company is doing, but don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Record. Patrick also says it’s probably a good idea to record your interviews. “If you tape your interviews, you’ll have a record to go back to if your news is misinterpreted in a public forum.”
Making sure the media get your story straight doesn’t have to be a headache. Set realistic expectations and get your media relations plan in place. Following these simple recommendations will set you up for success:
Focus on building positive relationships with key media
Issue well-crafted and multimedia-rich press releases
Host an online newsroom
Keep detailed records and make that information available to your team
This way, even when you’re crunched for time and you need to get the facts out, you’ll be able to tell your brand story the way you intended.
Making sure the media get your story straight doesn’t have to be a headache. Set realistic expectations, get your media relations plan in place and follow these simple recommendations to set yourself up for success.
Remember you’re dealing with people (that’s your job). And in the world of media relations, these connections are your lifeblood. Treat them as such.
Using a newswire service will deliver your content directly and immediately to the audience you’re trying to reach, with no extra steps required for them to understand your news.
Every time you add a video, insert an image or integrate social media— each asset is adding value to your message.
An online newsroom gives audiences 24-7 access to your news. Host this information in one space because journalists won’t waste time sifting through droves of information or having to click through layers upon layers of web pages.
Always verify that the reporter heard what you said and ask them to repeat your response back to you. If needed, correct the facts so you can focus on your interpretation.
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