Thursday, July 3, 2008

Media Relations

Relationship with the media is one of the most critical communication functions. Media includes television, radio, newspapers, journals, internet etc. The role of media in a corporate communication system has been gaining importance over the years. The organizations use this media to convey their messages to investors, suppliers, retailers and consumers who develop images of a company through such messages. Media are both a constituency and a conduit. Almost every company today has media relationship department to maintain good relations with them.

The News Media

The advent of television in the early 1950’s and the tremendous growth of the internet in the recent years has led to the shift of the importance from the print media to the news media. News media has more impact on the constituency than any other form of media. It is rather difficult to determine whether the media generated heightened interest in the business or was simply responding to changes in public attitudes. But today, many old business professionals are reluctant to accept that the time has changed resist the importance of communicating through the media and would rather maintain little or no relationship with them. This kind of attitude is increasingly risky as the companies are subject to some level of scrutiny from the public and the media.

The Growth of Business Coverage in the Media

Earlier, the business news was relegated to only last few pages of the newspaper or a journal and it included no coverage in the national and local news channels. As the importance of the media in the businesses increased, the business news started gaining importance and recognition. People now, were more interested in business news and information. Newspapers like New York Times, Wall Street journal dedicated one whole section of the newspaper to the business news. Today, there are many magazines and web sites purely dedicated to the businesses, that it is nearly impossible for us to find a topic that is not completely covered.

Building better relations with the media

Earlier, the Public Relations experts relied on the system of communication where the company sent out a press release to a mass audience and hoped that someone would pick it up and write about it. Now, this system does not work. Today, the reporters tend to receive massive quantities of such releases, mails, emails and voice mails which tend to get ignored by the reporters. Therefore, building better relations with the media and to identify those reporters who would write about your company would save the time as well as money.

Another problem faced by the companies is that the measure of success in the media relations in the business is the amount of “ink” or coverage that a company gets. But, in reality, how valuable is the coverage is more important.

Conducting Research for Targeting Media

The senior managers should first set objectives they have for a certain story. This might by to create awareness about the company or to discuss the changes in the company’s global strategy. They should conduct research to find out which reporters will most likely cover the story and who will be likely writing a ‘balanced story’ about the company and its strategic moves.

Responding to Media Calls

The companies can strengthen their relationship with the media by handling their request for queries and information in the right way. It is wise to respond to such requests carefully and in a timely manner and in the way that will reflect the best on the company. The call should come into a central office that deals with all requests for information from the media. The person who takes the call should find out what angle the reporter is taking on the story and should try to get as much information as possible while being careful not to give in return any information which is not already public knowledge. The conversation should end with the media relations professional agreeing to get back to the reporter within the allotted time.

Preparing for the media interview

The executive who will be interviewed needs to be prepared for the actual meeting with the reporter. The beginning of the interview should be positive and the person who’s going to be interview should keep in mind, the objectives and the message to be conveyed through the interview. Using statistics and anecdotes can help bring ideas alive in an interview.

Building a successful media relations program is very important and in the process, the following things should be kept in mind:
Involve Media relations personnel in strategy
Develop in-house capabilities
Use outside counsel sparingly
Extend the media relations strategy to the blogosphere (internet blogs)
Handle negative news effectively


The most famous and extensively used example for the media relations is the Adolph Coors Company case. The company got into a crisis, a conflict between the company and the organized labor because of which, the fifth largest brewery started declining. The sales figures came down and there was a 10-years long boycott organized by AFL-CIO. To overcome this hurdle, the company’s owners-Coors Brothers decided to open up to the media and agreed to give an interview with Mike Wallace. Brothers prepared extensively for the interview and during the interview session, the brothers proved that they were not wrong and that they were not racists. The session was enormously successful.

Personal Experience:

I was studying in tenth grade when I got an opportunity to exhibit my painting on a Television show. I was very glad as I finally succeeded to get such an opportunity as I had tried twice earlier for the same and could not get a chance. This time, I met one of my mom’s old friends who is the host of the show and because of her influence I got the opportunity. This is an example of how keeping good relations with the media personnel would help us. This is true in case of companies also.

This link is very useful. It contains a conversation between a person called carol and her old friend who is a reporter who tells her about having a good relationship with the media. - How to improve media relations? – Top ten tips by Peter Granat, Senior Vice President, MediaMap.

Corporate communication, 4th edition, Paul A. Argenti, The Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

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