t the end of the day getting it right in the media
is crucial. The media remains a powerful tool that
can influence public opinion and help make or
break a company’s reputation.
According to Margie Comrie, a professor in Media
Relations at the Massey University, media relations are
the most traditional and highest profile activity of PR and
communications personnel. Yet, as professional com-
munication practice has become more strategic and
sophisticated ‘dealing with the media’ has become less
important and is regarded as a technical, rather than
However, enlightened organisations are now taking a
less cavalier attitude to media relations. Responsible me-
dia relations can be about much more than positive pub-
licity and when conducted as part of the strategic plan in
line with the organisation’s mission and goals, it has the
potential to impact positively on the bottom line and on
According to Jane Sweeney, a media specialist at Por-
ter Novelli (a global public relations company), there
are eight steps to create a successful media relationship
strategy for your organisation. These steps were used to
structure the discussion:
Mari Jansen van Rensburg, Senior Lecturer: Marketing Management
1. Developing a media relations strategy that is
a fit for your organisation
Every day publications of all description need words
to fill their pages. Someone has to provide those words; it
might as well be you. But think laterally about where your
media item or story could go. What are the publications
covering your sector? Magazines, newsletters, email bul-
letins, inserts in the paper, radio programmes. Is there a
related market sector that has it own set of publications?
Also try the newsletters of industry associations, groups
and societies or other representative organisations.
When creating a media relations strategy you need to
be able to successfully align it with your organisational
strategy to achieve maximum results. Strategic media
relations is less about breaking news on prime time
01 ceo vol 6 no 7 2007
television than examining and understanding your 3. Use powerful, action-based words and phrases when-
organisation and its key stakeholders and developing ever possible (e.g. things like “time-saving”, “value-
plans for a broad array of publicity tactics. driven,” “cost-effective,” “market-leading,” etc.).
Developing a media relations strategy that is a fit for 4. Keep acronyms, slang and other hard to understand
your organisation requires you to consider the unique terminology out of your main messages.
environment in which you operate. This includes under- 5. The rule of 3. You should never have more than three
standing the role of media in your communication mix. key messages.
Due consideration should also be paid to potential skel- 6. Have fun and be creative.
etons in the closet that need to be addressed as well as To create a successful media relations strategy your
stakeholder perceptions about your company. key messages must be positive and stick in peoples’
minds when they think of your organisation.
2. Creating the general strategy It is also important to think about how you place your
The process of strategy is about who you are and media item. A standard media release issued to an editor
what you intend or need to accomplish. While it is useful will only go so far. Jane Tyler from Flying Solo offers the
to know the media it is more important to know yourself following advice to get across the line:
and what has to be done. If you want to have long-term Contact the editor for advice on how they like articles
media relations, then your first and main responsibility is submitted. Ask what angles they like, the length, ask
to work on creating a media strategy. There are five basic whether they prefer story suggestions or a media re-
steps to creating a media strategy: lease. Would they like these emailed or faxed?
1. Determine the purpose of dealing with the media for Find out what all their features for the year are, and
your company. write something to suit a special. Call and find out
2. Outline the goals and objectives that you want to the copy deadlines and submit before it’s due, so you
achieve through your media relations. have time to sort out any issues or queries.
3. Determine who within your organisation, will be re- If you make a submission, follow up, follow up, follow
sponsible for carrying out and updating the strategy. up. Editors are busy people and your item can simply
4. Calculate what resources in terms of staff and equip- get lost.
ment you can make available and what your addition- Develop a rapport with the editor and the advertising
al needs will be. staff. Once they get to know you, they will alert you
5. Identify key indicators that can be measured against to upcoming specials, will offer deals on advertising
your objectives to determine the effectiveness of your space and might even offer to carry something from
strategy implementation. you that fits their marketing needs from time to time.
Developing a media strategy is usually an interac-
tive process that includes several members or leaders 4. Creating an event driven response strategy
of an organisation. It may be done for the organisation Think carefully ahead to identify events or develop-
as a whole, or for particular projects or phases of an or- ments you wish to promote. Work hard to identify a range
ganisation’s work. The media strategy is a tool that can be of potential news stories across the year. What is interest-
referred to at any time, and should always be considered ing, new or different about your new building? Is some-
before interaction with the media. thing you have done ‘a first’ for the area? Perhaps you
can ‘create’ news by developing a really snazzy idea for
3. Creating your key message strategy a launch, or bringing in a celebrity… Are you leverag-
You need to be able to tell journalists and through them ing news about doing good in your community? Can you
the general public what your organisation stands for and conduct a survey of relevance to your industry, or to the
does in no more than three lines. Diana Reid from Con- public in general? Or think perhaps of identifying events
scious Communication offers the following guidelines: outside the scope of your business and industry.
1. Never forget the KISS principle (keep it short and After an event is identified, you need to start with more
simple). Messages should be clear, crisp and easy to detailed planning, building in lead-times for such things
understand. as getting permission and consent, organising events,
2. Be benefit orientated (try to talk less about what you exhibitions, or media visits and working with publication
do and more about how it impacts others and how deadlines.
broadly and deeply).
ceo vol 6 no 7 2007 02
5. Choosing the right occasions to use the media
Media is generally used to communicate either on a
proactive or reactive basis. In proactive media relations
you seek publicity for something you wish your organisa- Nothing could be further from the truth. Media relations
tion to have credit for. The purpose is to raise its profile and is an essential management function critical to the suc-
build or maintain its reputation. With reactive media rela- cess of any organisation. Management, especially top-
tions you respond to an unplanned situation or negative level management, drives the development of a culture
media scrutiny. Its purpose is to publicise your viewpoint that adds value to an organisation through a range of stra-
and ideally to rescue the reputation of your organisation. tegic media relations activities.
Proactive media relations are planned well in advance. There are four critical success factors for manage-
ment that wants to go from media shy to media savvy:
6. Developing and sustaining relationships with Share news and developments internally with staff
the media first.
While the technology boom has fostered new media Promote a sense of responsibility at all levels. Remem-
outlets that increase the probability that some ink will ber, every member of the organisation is responsible
stick, getting through the clutter to actually reach re- for media relations and adding value to enrich rela-
porters becomes more and more difficult. There are two tionships with stakeholders.
measures of how high you rank on the value chain: knowl- Involvement and co-operation from all levels of an
edge and relationships. organisation should be encouraged and developed.
Building relationships means that reporters will take If you are going to be in the media, it is incredibly im-
your call when you’ve got an important story to tell. Best portant that everyone in your organisation is singing
of all, even if they can’t help you on this particular one, from the same song sheet.
they are likely to refer you to another reporter who can. Develop a learning culture, where an organisation
As with any relationship, building trust is critical. Do what values being in touch with the latest trends, encour-
you say you will, within the timeframe you give. You may ages best practice, and actively eliminates undesir-
not be able to provide all the information requested, but able behaviour and actions that have an impact on the
if you are upfront about what you can and can’t do, report- quality of relationships with stakeholders.
ers will appreciate it and remember.
You therefore need to get to know all your possible 8. Maximising results
news outlets. Furthermore you need to understand their Within the communication landscape, social media
business, the stresses and demands journalists are un- – blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking sites and the
der, and what they consider news. like – have sparked profound change in the media, pub-
lishing and marketing industry. Media relations, with its
7. Creating a unified front toward the media focus on building dialogue and relationships, can and
– the place media relations has in corporate must play a critical role in helping today’s organisation
culture succeed in this new world of communication.
Proactive media relations has the advantage of build- A successful strategy requires intense, purposeful
ing your and your management’s skills in handling media preparation. No matter what the situation or scenario,
issues. It is important for journalists to get hold of ‘real when it comes to working with the news media there are
people’, not just you. So working with key members of common principles and approaches. Most are however
the organisation, encouraging them to be spokespeople learned situation-by-situation, problem-by-problem, and
and helping them develop their messages will stand the often interview-by-interview. Media relations is a skill that
organisation in good stead. is enhanced only by relentless and ongoing practice.
Too many CEOs, mid-level managers and execu-
tives seem to believe that corporate communications is Adapted from a speech at the 4th Annual Corporate Branding
all about mingling with people at a networking function. and Strategic Media Relations Summit, February 2008.
01 ceo vol 6 no 7 2007
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