The benefits of media engagement are widely acknowledged; firstly, it’s generally considered a much more cost effective way of brand building than many other marketing methods (PR Week recently reported that agencies are seeing a boom in enquiries from car firms, as they look to introduce a more economical and creative marketing approach). Secondly, modern consumers are savvy and many simply switch off when faced with adverts (or fast forward if they have Sky+), instead they often look to reviews or commentary from external parties. Thirdly, media communications can help both in the good times by promoting your products or services and in the bad by giving you an opportunity to explain what went wrong and what you are doing to fix it.
While it’s true there are possible negatives or dangers (contrary to what some may claim you can’t control the media) in communicating with the media, these are far outweighed by the benefits of doing so. The best media relations people know they can help to influence a journalist’s agenda but they know that the relationship has to be mutually beneficial to be a long-term, successful one.
Journalists are after stories, the best ones they can print or broadcast, and this is a key thing to understand about the media’s motivation. By having this knowledge PRs can make sure they are putting their best foot forward when it comes to their news. One tool we explain in our media training courses is the ‘So what? Test’ which encourages you to stop and look at your story and view it from the journalist’s perspective – if you read a release and can’t answer why it’s important or interesting to the target audience then you need to work harder on tailoring it, or perhaps in finding a new angle that will be important to the readers.
PR should be a core part of any organisation’s marketing and communications, but thinking the first step is cold calling the Financial Times and setting up an interview is wrong. The first step is looking at what your organisation does, who your target audience are and what you want to communicate to them. This means stepping back from your day-to-day role so you can see the wood AND the trees. This is one part of why our media training is important – we help you to analyse what you stand for and what this means for your stakeholders.
All too often you hear spokespeople on the news falling back on the same marketing blurb that’s on their and probably all their competitors’ websites; ‘customer focussed’, ‘turnkey solution’, ‘multi-platform’, ‘sustainable ROI’. This is partly due to spokespeople falling back on their comfort zone of internal company jargon, but also due to the fact that firms can find it hard to distinguish themselves from the others in the market. Media training can help you shake off the jargon and make sure you have insightful, new, different and interesting things to say instead – this is what will get you noticed and remembered.
Of course media training will also help you to understand the processes involved in news rooms and explain how broadcasters put together their news items. This is all vital to put you in the shoes of a journalist; which will help you to be a better media communicator, but the best media training is also about the practice interviews. Our courses help you know what to expect from your media interactions, whether you are giving market comment or handling a crisis at your company.
The best organisations take PR very seriously, and the PRs that work in them, know that you won’t be a good spokesperson till you’ve had the media training to prepare you for it.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – January 2012