Media Relations Matter
Regardless of the size of your business, media relations is one area that should be taken seriously. The opportunity of success and the risk of failure are too great to do otherwise. Apparently Lyon Shipyard Inc. in Norfolk, Virginia, didn’t get the memo.
A recent article in The Virginian-Pilot reported that five shipyards in Hampton Roads received more than $7.8 million in federal stimulus funding.
Lyon Shipyard was awarded the largest amount in the nation from among more than 500 applicants. That's news. So the reporter called the shipyard and spoke with its vice president. All is well so far. It's better to have a company leader speak for your business than a public relations spokesperson or a public relations consultant.
However, for success to occur, that leader has to understand the media, have a dedicated strategy for each media encounter, and give some thought to the intended results of the media encounter. You get there by having a media relations program in place prior to any media encounter.
Whether that media relations training program is developed by an in-house public relations team or is outsourced to a competent public relations agency on an hourly, case-by-case basis, the end result is proper media relations training and effective guidance to ensure the following never happens to you. Here's what went wrong in Lyon Shipyard’s case. The following quotes appeared near the top of the story:
Lyon Shipyard Inc. in Norfolk received the largest award in the nation - $4.5 million for a dry-dock modernization project.
"Frankly, I was a little surprised we got the amount we requested," said Tom Ackiss, vice president at Lyon.
When the shipyard applied to the program, Ackiss said, "we didn't really hold out a lot of hope."
"Nice surprises do happen," he added.
The other local shipyards awarded grants are:
I don't know about you, but these quotes did not instill confidence in me toward this executive, his company, or their ability to do the work. Ackiss made it seem like it was an accident that his company was selected for this work. If Ackiss was hoping to make his company appear to be an industry leader and impress stakeholders in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, and Newport News, he failed miserably. If you leave room to read between the lines, people will read between the lines. Ackiss' quotes created enough room to drive a ship (or two) through.
During a media interview there are several fundamental media relations tactics to remember:
- Every media opportunity is a chance to get the core messages of your business to important stakeholders, including potential employees in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, and Newport News.
- Your words will either help or hurt your business. Everything you say will be evaluated by the audience.
- Every quote should have an intended effect and move the ball forward for your organization.
- Your words should match the actions and vision of your organization.
- Everything is on the record and could appear in print, even the chit-chat.
When you're part of a positive story and your organization is being recognized for success, your quotes should include:
- Recognition of your people.
- Recognition of company expertise.
- Articulation of the future impact this success will bring.
Just because an executive is well educated and has reached the top of the corporate ladder, doesn't mean he or she understands the intricacies of media relations and how to work with a professional reporter during a media interview.
When a reporter calls on deadline for a quote, who will be providing the answers that will be read by your stakeholders and tens of thousands of readers? Will it be a smart person who wings it? Or will it be a person with media relations training and a well thought out strategy for responding to the reporter?
Media Relations Management
The media loves to be part of an interesting story -- especially if they're invited. That's exactly what public relations professional Barbara Morrison did, and landed her client a front page story in The Virginian-Pilot.
Morrison, a public relations professional for the city of Virginia Beach, is a liaison for the Virginia Beach Police Department, and an expert in media relations management. As part of the department's training, lieutenants and new captains attend two-day leadership seminars in Gettysburg where the historic battlefield is used to spark discussions about leadership techniques and dilemmas.
Morrison knew the program was a great public relations opportunity and arranged for a reporter to join a trip. The reporter accepted and drove with the group to Gettysburg, allowing him to do interviews along the way and become part of the story. That earned a positive, image-boosting story for the Virginia Beach police.
Reporter participation should be a tactic in your media relations management. However, do your homework before inviting a reporter to spend this much time with your people and operation.
PR tips include:
- Pick the right time and the right event. Don't make the call just because you can.
- Seek out a reporter who has a personal interest in the topic you want to promote. It makes for a better story, and helps to build a working relationship for future articles.
- A well written story comes from the heart. What better way to get your story told, then to let the writer experience the adventure first hand.
- Prepare a background sheet for the reporter. The more information you provide, the more time he or she has to devote to the story.
- Conduct media training with each person likely to be interviewed for the story. Even non-players should be trained, since reporters who feel they're being lead will seek out "the real story."
- Take care of your reporter. You would expect the same if you were the invitee. Reporters are people too.
- Think of the story in terms of a series or a continuum. If the reporter can get more than one story out of the visit, it's a better time investment for him/her. What other elements of the program can you include?
- What leader back home needs to be in the story? Ensure the reporter has access to the boss.
- Provide employees a list of PR tips so they understand what you're trying to accomplish and how they fit in.
Does your company have any training methods, volunteer work, family events, team building activities, etc., that are unique and worth a reporter's time?
About Rourk Public Relations
The Rourk Public Relations agency is expert at media relations, branding, marketing, government relations, political consulting, SEO, web marketing, and web design. It contributes effective PR and Marketing work to a wide range of clients in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News, Hampton Roads, and throughout Virginia.
For a no-cost phone consultation, feel free to call David Rourk at (757) 478-0150.