As Warren Buffet said; “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Reputations can certainly be broken in the media, Andrew Mitchell, who abused the Downing Street police, is only too aware of this fact after The Sun newspaper reported his bad behaviour last week.
Of course the flipside is that with the right media relations approach a reputation can also be made in the media. This very rarely happens overnight and isn’t often thanks to primetime TV news or even front page stories on the Financial Times. Instead organisations have to work at building their media reputation, and the foundations that get put in place first are usually with the trade and regional press.
While there are still potential dangers in dealing with these media (particularly for those who don’t take a considered approach), it is often the case that these journalists will be more sympathetic – particularly those covering your sector, who will be far more reluctant to ‘burn bridges’ with organisations on their ‘patch’.
We still strongly advise any new spokespeople undergo formal media training (we will take a very different approach in your course, depending on the types of media and interview, that you are going to face) before they speak to the media and we know that the trade press are often where most of an organisation’s public relations focus will be. Trades in your sector will be more understanding about the work you do, and being specialists, they’ll likely also be more knowledgeable about your operation.
Deciding what trades you should target comes down to two main principles; knowing which publications cover your industry and which titles your clients or other relevant stakeholders read. Producing a list with your colleagues (or even asking your audience what they read) and then making sure you contact (and add them to your press release distribution list) these media is a great place to start.
There are often also opportunities with freelance journalists, who may not be tied to any single publication and who probably write for a few titles. These can be hugely useful media contacts as not only will they provide access to different media, but they will often be hungry for stories, and be used to selling-in to editors.
When many people think about media relations they assume it’s all about getting on Sky News or the front page of the Sunday Times, but the reality is that many spokespeople don’t need to look outside their own industry’s publications because that’s what gets them coverage, and that’s what gets them in front of the specific audiences who are most important to them. If you’re starting out in media relations your best bet is likely to look to those trade magazines that come through your own letterbox each week.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – September 2012