Effective Media Coverage
This article examines the activities and processes that contribute to maximizing positive media coverage. The role of a company's media relations staff is explained along with many of the tasks that the staff performs to obtain positive media coverage. The processes of profiling publications, editors, and writers to better understand how to work with them are reviewed. The various types of publications that can provide press coverage for a company are also reviewed. Ongoing efforts to build relationships with editors and writers are examined along with some of the methods for minimizing damage from negative press coverage.
Keywords: Business Press; Media Coverage; Media Relations; Media Monitoring; Newsworthiness; Trade Publications
Effective Media Coverage
All businesses would like to experience positive media coverage all of the time. However, in our world of increased communication, information, and often sensationalist news coverage, this is not possible. Despite this, it is possible to achieve positive media coverage and to leverage that coverage to gain more positive coverage, establish goodwill, build a reputation, drive sales, and increase market share. This does require time, effort, and a spokesperson that has a positive view towards the media and experience working for positive media coverage (Hong-tao, 2008) (Howard, 1994).
Business managers often seek quick and effective solutions to their problems. However, when it comes to maximizing positive media coverage, success is often far from quick and easy.
Media Relations Management
The first challenge of managing media is to hire media relations staff. In some cases, businesses turn to outside public relations firms or advertising firms for this type of support. In situations where media coverage is fairly constant, it is advisable to have an internal staff person in charge of media relations. This provides for consistency in tone and the ability to adjust and evolve the scope and detail of desired media coverage over time. An internal media relations staff will also be focused solely on their company and will be better able to perform many of the endless small tasks necessary to obtain and maintain positive media coverage (Pellegrino, 2007).
The next challenge is getting to know your company and the positive stories you desire to tell about it. A media relations team can help to put the story together, but the details of the story and why it is important are in the minds of the employees of the company. Thus, compiling a history of the company as well as material that captures the working spirit and product value of the company is an important step. It may require interviews with dozens or more employees as well as reviewing historical documents (Vanhamme & Grobben, 2009).
It is also important to know how the company has contributed to the communities in which it is located or contributed to other social causes around the world (Settles, 1996). Volumes of material may need to be reduced down to simple tidbits, but it is essential to provide relevant answers to probable questions. Remember that reporters want to know who, what, when, where, why, and how (Adler, 2007).
Once the history, spirit, product value, and contributions of the company are compiled, edited, and published, it is important that everyone in the company is familiar with these contributions. This is especially true of managers who may have the opportunity to speak on behalf of the company (Morris, 1989).
It is also important to develop an understanding about what is newsworthy about the company. This includes what may be appealing on an ongoing basis as well as what might be newsworthy in various circumstances, including boom times, recessions, natural disasters, national elections, and other cyclic events (Schaumleffel & Tialdo, 2006) (Stateman, 1998).
Newsworthiness is often in the eye of the beholder, and, for the most part, it can be situational. Factors that influence newsworthiness will vary considerably from time to time and place to place and may be difficult to determine. There are several ways that a media relations staff can sort through and rank the newsworthiness of various potential stories.
One key to determining newsworthiness is to analyze the actual publications and the type of publications that have previously run stories about your company or similar companies. There are several types of publications that could be interested in your company from a variety of perspectives (Otte, 1992).
Trade publications cover an industry or a particular type of product or materials used in manufacturing. These publications tend to be read by people in their industry or those who work for companies that use products from an industry or perhaps even sell products to an industry (Peckham, 2007). Trade publications can provide good exposure by increasing awareness about a company or a company's product line. Stories in trade publications can help improve sales and marketing efforts, which in turn increase the return on investment for media and public relations efforts and a company's success at large (McNamara, 2008).
National newspapers and magazines with high circulation numbers as well as distribution in multiple geographical regions also may be interested in news about your company. These publications tend to focus on stories that have a national or global significance. They also tend to be less technical than trade publications because they strive to appeal to a broader audience. The perspective of these publications on almost any topic can also shift over time (Entwistle & Johnson, 2000)(Ott, 1998).
Local and regional newspapers and magazines tend to run stories on issues or events that impact their surrounding communities. These publications often have an interest in companies that have facilities located in their circulation areas. Topics or issues that regional and local publications consider newsworthy tend to be those that can impact lifestyles, jobs, businesses, or economics in the community (Martinelli, 2006).
Advocacy publications are those that take a position on a specific issue or segment of the population. Many advocacy publications come and go rather quickly. Examples of the type issues that advocacy publications focus on include the environment, politics, race, business, international relations, immigration, and unionism (Kleinman, 2002). These publications can be a source of positive as well as negative media coverage for a company.
There are also a wide variety of publications that target specific demographic segments based on gender, age, race, leisure activities, or hobbies. Many of these publications focus on lifestyle topics ranging from apparel preferences to home decor choices. There is also at least one publication for virtually every type of hobby or leisure activity ranging from plant growing and flower arranging to model railroading and bicycling. Depending on the product or service a company offers, many of these publications can be a source of positive media coverage (Lontos, 2008).
Regardless of the type of publications a company seeks coverage in, the media relations team has a considerable amount of work to do in building and managing those relations. In addition, the media relations team also needs to be prepared to counter any negative media coverage that occurs.
Managing Media Relationships
Awareness of Media Outlets
There are several aspects to the process of managing media relationships. Some publications may have a reputation for being negative and others positive. Some reporters or feature writers may also have a reputation for being negative or positive. Many will tell you that they are looking for the dirt because that is what people like to read. It is important that the media relations staff understands the publications that they work with and those that they may work with in the future. Profiling publications, editors, and writers is an important step for maximizing positive media coverage (Lontos, 2008) (Rose, 2001).
Getting to know the publications that cover a company or an industry is a long and sometimes slow process. A review of the last two to three years of the publication's issues is a good start. This review will provide insight into the topics that were covered and how they were covered. It will also provide a good indication as to the slant of the articles published, including if they were negative, positive, or well balanced. A visit to a publication's website can also provide information on its history, mission, and mode of operation (Bradley, 1997).
Awareness of Media Editors
Many publications may be well established and in operation for several years or even several decades. However, few editors remain at a publication for more than ten years. Thus, it is important for the media relations staff to know the styles and preferences of the long-tenured editors and should have an awareness of newer editors. Publications can change tone relatively quickly if the old guard leaves and there is suddenly a new crop of editors (Carr, 2009).
Awareness of Writers
It is also important to know the writers in each publication. Writers have their own style and have a track record of success. How a writer builds their track record will vary. Some writers make careers on writing negative stories, and others may build their record on writing well-balanced stories with broad appeal. The importance of building relationships with writers cannot be understated (Youngwirth, 2009).
Once the publications, editors, and writers are known, the process of maximizing positive media coverage will become a bit easier. But it still requires constant hard work. The media relations team needs to stay in tune with editorial and publishing processes. In part, this means being prepared to take advantage of opportunities for possible positive coverage that may come up. The media relations staff needs to have a variety of possible positive stories or angles when the media calls, and these stories need to have the right appeal for the publication that is calling (Schultz, 1996).
Being prepared means being able to provide content for an article in progress or to prompt an editor or writer to be interested in a story. It is important to be able to provide writers with all the information they need to tell the story. In many ways, this means understanding the life of a writer. They are often under deadline, and time is critical. Writers also cannot be expected to readily understand every topic in as much detail as the media relations representative. This means that material provided to writers needs to be readily understandable and that the small details need to have both meaning and context (Jacobs, 2008) (Rembrandt, 2007).
Depending on the publication, writers also like to include quotations from corporate executives, researchers, and scientists. Media relations managers must know which people in their company can be available for an interview and...
(The entire section is 5072 words.)