Continuing from where we left off in the
+ Communications columns, its critical to your success as a
company that you build and maintain a positive relationship with the
media. Your goal here is simple -- you want them to write about your
company favorably (and as often as possible). The medias role is central
to your success; as the great influencer, the media extends its influence
over all of your other key audiences -- customers and prospects; business
and sales partners and stakeholders and employees -- and functions as a
power force to shape their opinion of your company and its products and
Because of this important central role that the media
plays in your success, its vital that you spend the time and make the
effort to establish a positive relationship with them. Unfortunately,
today, far too many companies and executives still see the media through
an unfortunate stereotypical adversarial relationship perspective. This
may have been formed by personal experience (I was misquoted!) or from
the medias often stormy relationship with political figures or business
leaders that is read about or seen daily in the media.
However, if this is your perspective of the media, it
must be changed. Today, it is vital to develop instead a positive,
proactive relationship with the media that will help foster consistent and
favorable news coverage for your company. There is simply too much at
stake to have it any other way.
From your companys perspective, dealing with the
media can be reduced to two very simple questions:
- What would make a reporter want to cover my
- What steps can I take to make that reporter cover
my company in the most positive light?
THE EDITORIAL THOUGHT PROCESS
However, from the medias perspective, its not that simple. To begin
to understand why, lets put ourselves inside a reporters (or editors)
head to see how he or she determines what he or she will write about or
cover. Lets examine what I call the editorial thought process.
First, each reporter determines the news value of any
information using a simple litmus test: Why should the readers of my
publication, visitors to my Web site, television (broadcast and cable)
viewers or radio listeners care about this bit of information about your
A seemingly very broad question, but to get to the
answer, the reporter then drills down with more specific questions:
- Is it something new? (Is this information
that has not been heard and presented before, whether on a product or
service, company development or viewpoint?)
- Is it something timely? (Is it something
that is currently taking place, will take place soon or ties into
something currently in the news?)
- Is it something interesting to my audience? (Will
my readers and viewers see this as relevant to their business or career
If your bit of company news has made it through this
screening process, the reporter then starts to put together a story on it
based on what is called journalistic style -- or the five Ws (and the
- Who is affected by this piece of
information? (Does this news affect many people or only a few?)
- What happened? (Is the event interesting
- When did it happen? (Is the information
timely, occurring now or in the immediate past?)
- Where did it happen? (Is the news happening
close to where my readers live, do they know the area or is it so
important that geographical location doesnt matter?)
- Why did it happen? (Can I explain the
reasons behind this event?)
- How did it happen? (Can I provide more
details about the event?
WEIGHING THE NEWS
Once youve seen and begun to understand the editorial thought process,
it then becomes easier to see that reporters have no particular stake in
your companys news. They are merely weighing your companys news to see
if their readers are interested in hearing about it. They are also
weighing its importance against all of the others news items that they are
considering from other companies -- large and small, major and minor --
that you may or may not compete against in your industry. All of these
factors will determine how much prominence, or play, your news gets. In
practical terms, if your companys news is covered, this equates to the
position in the publication (front of the book) and size of the article
that it receives.
In addition, if a reporter does write about your
companys news, he or she wants to make sure that the news is presented to
their readers in a fair, balanced manner, with an unbiased
viewpoint. Thats one of the characteristics of a good journalist.
Granted, its a great theory, but is that really possible in todays news
business? Now, lets continue our voyage inside a reporters mind to find
As I have explained in many of the media training
sessions in which I have conducted, each reporter has his or her own
unique perspective of your company, whether it has been written about or
not. Imagine each reporters mind like a file cabinet that contains a
jumble of information of all sizes and shapes about your company; when
combined, this jumble of data creates his or her perspective of your
- Do they have personal contact or know anyone who
works at your company on either a personal or business basis?
- Have they used your companys products and
services -- and was this a positive experience?
- What have other people told them about your
company, whether co-workers, friends or your competitors?
- Have they read anything about your company in the
news? And was it good news (customer success stories, positive earnings
reports, etc.) or bad news (poor product reviews, negative earnings
reports, employment cutbacks, etc.)?
- Have they written about your company before? Have
they given you positive or negative coverage?
- What is going on in the industry in which your
company competes? Is it expanding or contracting? Is it vitally
important to the overall economy or a bit player?
Based on these criteria (and you could add many
more), its easy to see that without a proactive public relations program,
your company is leaving it up to each reporter to draw his or her own
connections, inferences and conclusions about it and how you will be
covered (if at all).
In todays hyperkinetic business environment, this
type of approach with the media simply leaves too much up to
chance. Without a proactive public relations program to educate and inform
the media, you have basically given each reporter free rein to write about
your company based only on their existing file cabinet of knowledge.
In the next column, well continue by discussing the
importance of developing an overall strategy with the media to fill the
file cabinet with the information you want.
With his unique "both sides
of the editor's desk" perspective, Randy Savickys advice and counsel on
public relations and marketing has been sought after by some of Americas
largest corporations and best-known brands, including IBM, Motorola, Sony
and Fujifilm. He is President of Strategy + Communications Worldwide
the complete outsourcing resource, which helps companies gain mindshare
and market share by improving their communications to their key audiences:
media and analysts; customers and prospects; business and channel
partners; government agencies and regulators; and employees and
stakeholders. He welcomes your comments and ideas and can be reached at
(516) 457-4122 or
to this article in our forums!