Know your enemy
Effective media management can be crucial to effective crisis management. But the thought of having to speak to the media can strike fear into the heart of even a seasoned business manager. Journalists are often thought of as hostile or devious, but the way they treat you is largely dependent on how you treat them. Being aware of the pressures that they are under is half the battle in terms of managing them effectively.
Two things in particular to bear in mind are that the journalist is probably up against tight deadlines and is probably being paid to write a certain number of words. In other words, they have a certain amount of column inches or air time to fill and limited time in which to write their piece. They need to get a story, and they need to get it as quickly as possible. They also need to make the story interesting, so that people will want to read it. And if they can keep a story going, it can be much more profitable for them. And, believe it or not, even though you might think they’re out to get you, it’s not personal.
So, the more you can make the journalist’s life easier, the less grief they’re likely to give you. Do respond to their requests for an interview or statement – if you don’t they’ll just go to someone else, who may not put over the side of the story that you want reported. If you say you’ll get back to them by a certain time make sure you do so. Do have interesting company information available in an easily digestible format (e.g. an e-mail that they can cut and paste from). Don’t be aggressive or obstructive towards them, it really doesn’t help. And remember, they always get the last word.
Knowing what makes the media tick will help you to deal with them in a way that results in the least possible hassle for everyone. And if you play your cards right, you might even get some positive publicity out of it.