Media Relations: Strategies for Entrepreneurs
The media is important to entrepreneurs because it carries a
business' message to customers, potential customers, and employees.
A good relationship with the media is a management tool that is
critical for a long-term business entity. The strategy is one of getting
it "right" - or in other words, exercising the intellectual
discipline of thinking thoroughly when communicating with the media.
The media filters a business' information. Since seventy-five percent
of the game with the media is a matter of candid disclosure, what makes
a product/service new or unique? Is this newsworthy? What interests the
reader is what makes the distinction. Given this perspective, what does
a business want to achieve in its communications? It could be anything
from raising capital, influencing the government, or recruiting
employees. Such messages require executive-level attention when putting
together a press release.
Message content should be carefully crafted by those intimately
knowledgeable about the subject matter. Assisting the media's
understanding of a product/service means giving the facts simply.
Underestimating the media's intelligence and giving "spin" to
information becomes transparent to the media. Such behavior makes a
business' case look weak and undermines whatever credibility the media
may have had with the enterprise.
Credibility is the most important asset a business can have with the
media. Successful media dynamics require trust and a solid reputation
for straight talk. Since the media has limited time and personnel, it
will extend trust once to a business. Abusing that trust means inclusion
in the media's "bad guy" list along with greater scrutiny and
skepticism. A savvy business needs character, judgment, and thought to
make media relations "smooth." Playing devil's advocate with
itself may be a business' best defense when testing its assumptions and
understanding the media's perspective. Such insight enhances a business'
media relations for the better.
There are three kinds of information a business can communicate.
Proprietary information is protected and shared only within the
organization. Internal, non-proprietary information is shared with
manufacturers, suppliers, and retail outlets. External public
information is shared with the world and the media.
The media's job is to fill the news hole. A business delivering three
stories to three different audiences causes confusion and
inefficiencies. Preferably, the business should stick to one story and
tell it to all three audiences. This eliminates the appearance of three
different "takes" on the same message. The media will look for
other perspectives on the story on its own.
There is honor in what the media does. It directly derives its
influence/power from its credibility with its consumers. It understands
proprietary data, honesty, and inclusion as a communications outlet for
business. In return, it expects fair treatment from business for the job
The following "tips" lend insight into understanding the
- Anticipate and manage the changing tide of media
coverage/treatment. The media is like a dog. It exhibits the
"herd" mentality of pack animals with
hierarchical/territorial instincts. This can translate into being
either loved or hated by the media depending on the circumstances.
- Work hard to win and maintain media attention. From the very first
contact, build understanding and credibility with the media; but be
aware of possible seduction and betrayal by it. Be careful and do
not relax too much with it.
- Know the "breed" of the media by doing the requisite
research. In other words, realize that there are good and bad media
types and know which ones with which to talk. Develop a familiarity
with the media. Target the type of media exposure desired and the
kind of information disclosed.
- Involve senior executives when determining the business' public
relations and targeting the media. Do not outsource these functions.
- Keep training sessions short. The media is a victim of information
overload. As a rule, it is skeptical. Some sure signs of
"trouble" are when it suffers from stress, fatigue,
boredom, and aggression.
- Train the media by being consistent, honest, straightforward, and
patient. Such treatment wins respect, understanding, and
reciprocity. It also leads to personally and professionally
Marketing is not merely about the product but also about product
management and the marketing function/strategy. For example, imagine a
business with a high tech product that costs $10,000. This business
targets households with an income of $100,000 per year. It chooses to
advertise in publications read by higher income people - the audience it
wants to attract. These publications include Forbes, the Wall Street
Journal, and the San Jose Mercury News - reputable media forums.
Quality, not quantity, is the focus; therefore selecting premier
business publications for its advertisements is strategically
"smart" ink that appears in a credible environment where it
can do the most good.
Successful media campaigns are integrated with advertising. Third
party endorsements from financial analysts, industry analysts, and
system integrators influence public perception. Avoid excessive
"hype" and be prepared to absorb negative stories by waiting
for them to blow over. Eventually, the media will find another story to
chase. The relationship with the media one based on the ability to
articulate, not socialize.
Written by Judy Kong, Analyst with TECHdivas.com