Inside the Media
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To order Winning with the News Media:
Below are excerpts from the Policy chapter of
Winning with the News Media
Copyright © 2005, 2001, 1999, 1996
By Clarence Jones
Media PolicyYou Mean I Canít
Tell Them to Buzz Off?
I believe most organizations should have a written media policy. The larger the organization, the more detailed the policy should be. Once the policy is written, the boss should personally tell employees why the policy is there. AND WHAT IT REALLY MEANS.
If you donít make your intentions very clear, youíll get a lot of different interpretations. Staffers should be given specific scenarios in which reporters might approach the organization, and how they should handle it.
Too Many Thou Shall Nots
Many media policies are just lists of Thou Shall Nots. Donít talk to reporters. Donít talk about company policy. Donít let reporters or photographers enter without an escort. Donít violate client confidentiality. Donít contradict the governorís political stance.
Donít. Don't. Donít.
With all those doníts, many employees decide the safest course of action is to avoid reporters at all costs. If a reporter shows up, cover your face and hide under the desk.
Corporations and government agencies send their top executives to my seminars, to learn how to deal effectively with the media.
A real problem is that reportersí first contact is often an entry-level employee who knows nothing about media relations. The reporter scares them. They look very defensive. Guilty.
The First Contact
The reporter may interpret that employeeís response as the official company line. A story that was slightly critical may suddenly head toward a full expose of scandal in the executive suite.
Thatís why the written policy is so critical. I suggest that written policies stress the positive aspects of media relations first. Then get around to specific things you should not talk about, and how to refer the reporter up the ladder of command.
At the end of this chapter, Iíve reproduced portions of model policies Iíve written for clients. They can be easily modified to fit your organization.
The Basic Points
I believe every media policy should contain these basics:
Only the Boss Talks
Some organizations have a policy that says only the boss can talk to reporters. That means stories will be written without the organizationís point of view when the boss canít be reached.
If only the boss is allowed to speak, reporters get the idea the boss doesnít trust the staff. Theyíre either too dumb to speak for the company or have been muzzled because thereís something to hide.
There may be a need to designate specific spokespeople for special kinds of situations. In a police department, for instance, the lead investigator working a homicide may be the only proper source for the media on that case. That investigator is best qualified to know whether the release of certain information might harm the investigation.
A fairly open policy will ó in the long run ó best serve most organizations. The single most disarming factor for a suspicious reporter is a friendly, wide-open media attitude.
I recommend the Home Depot technique. When a customer asks an employee where something is, the Home Depot employee doesnít just tell the customer where power saws are. The employee takes the customer there. The customer feels: this company wants my business. I like that. This is a good place to shop.
In the same way, your staffer should personally take the reporter to the PIO, or to someone who is better situated to know what the reporter is asking.
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