Archive for the ‘Media Training’ Category
Two months ago, my career did a 180-degree turn.
I left my job as a business reporter and joined a PR firm. While I was excited by the opportunity of digging into a new profession and all the challenges that come with it, I dreaded the inevitable jabs about going to the other side of the broadsheet.
Before I started, I had a feeling that one of the toughest parts of my job transition would be pitching my former friends and colleagues. I was right. Initially, pitching reporters has been a bit surreal. Suddenly, my new reality is that rather than screening dozens of pitches a day for the occasional newsworthy gem, I’m on the other side, trying to catch the attention of reporters, hoping that they’ll bite on one of my ideas.
It is commonly known in the world of public relations that press and analyst meetings at industry events are valuable. Booking face to face time with the industry’s most relevant pundits is undoubtedly considered a PR win. But we need to understand why. Why are events important? Why are in-person briefings valuable? What does it take as a PR pro to book meetings, and how can you really garner results for your client?
With the start of the RSA Conference 2013 yesterday in San Francisco, it’s a great time to reveal what makes an event worthwhile to attend and what the “secret sauce” is for booking meetings and making sure clients can deliver positive results. Here are five best practices for clients to harvest real results from in person media briefings:
Today, The New York Times officially banned “after-the-fact quote approvals.” This is the fairly common request from PR people and spokespeople to approve their quotes following an interview. The Times memo stated that “demands for after-the-fact quote approval by sources and their press aides have gone too far.”
Everyone understands the desire to ask to approve a quote. We’ve seen the perils of misused quotes and statistics all too often in this year’s presidential race. However, most of us aren’t running for public office, and in journalism, unlike the creative halls of political campaign ad execs, the truth is the ultimate goal. In fact, reputable reporters follow the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
The funny thing about being a blowhard communicator is that, eventually, it comes back to bite you. Look no further than former Red Sox ace turned video game entrepreneur Curt Schilling. When Schilling was in his prime he was a fierce competitor, tireless worker and driven to succeed. To some, he also came across as somewhat crass and arrogant. Whether he was giving the beat writers assembled pre-game in front of his locker a hard time or calling into WEEI as “Curt in the car,” it was clear that he had an opinion and demanded to be heard.
Back then it sure seemed that the only thing Schilling liked to do more than pitch was talk, and no subject was safe from Curt’s version of reality. In short, he was the ultimate blowhard. The media was only too happy to put the microphone in front of him.
This has probably happened to all of us at some point in our PR careers: we’ve worked hard to develop messaging and positioning with our client or internal spokesperson, prepared the press release, developed unique story angles and pitches, gone through revisions and feedback sessions, and finally pitched the story. And, voila! We landed some interviews. But when the spokesperson starts telling the story, your jaw drops because they are telling it in a way you’ve never heard before. Why? Maybe it’s because we forgot to carve out time in the lead up or simply ran out of time to do some basic media training. Even here, we are guilty of occasionally lining up that last minute interview without always thinking through prep.
Is Three a Crowd?
Last month a PR person for the New York Jets told Darrelle Revis to hang up on host Mike Francesa during a heated WFAN interview. I don’t recommend hanging up on reporters, but the bigger question is this: Should PR professionals sit in on press calls? I wrote a piece for PR News this month examining the pros and cons.
My advice? If you have a great spokesperson, let him or her go solo. It fosters transparency, which has never been more important than it is today, and facilitates a real relationship between the reporter and the spokesperson. However, if you are working with spokesperson who is forgetful of key messages, new to media interviews or isn’t good at following up, it’s a good idea to sit in…for now. Likewise, a crisis situation is an entirely different animal, and one that requires very tightly scripted communications that benefit immensely from the presence of a PR person.
No one is born with the grace and agility to answer tough questions off the cuff. Media training is an important primer. However, practice in the trenches of real-world media interviews is the only direct route to competence. And even the best spokesperson can stumble (or jump) deep into the fray in the face of a sharpened or unexpected attack. The fray is not a place we recommend; it inhabits blame so deeply that few people emerge better for being there.
The GOP debates and considerable media attention about jobs have provided some good examples of how to handle the questions that you’re trying to avoid or didn’t expect. These fiery topics demonstrate how confidence, honesty and a thick skin can overcome almost any tricky interview. On the other hand, a deep dive into the fray can light up the kind of side story that slingshots the conversation in a new and completely irrelevant direction. Let’s look at a few examples.