Not all publicity is good publicity

Angela
Podmore gives us a guide to ensuring that your public profile is driven by good
publicity

The
great British media (collectively, TV, radio, press and now the internet) is
rated as the best in the world and has a powerful influence on public opinion.

If
you believe there’s no such thing as bad publicity, then you fundamentally
misunderstand the power of reputation. It takes a lifetime to build up, and can
be wiped out overnight.

To
build and safeguard a reputation is all about control. If you do nothing (or
even worse, say ‘no comment’) you imply guilt or indifference, and you are not
controlling the situation.

Controlling
what is said about you and your organisation is not about ‘spin’. ‘Spin’ is an
exaggerated perspective on your story. There’s a limit to how far and how often
you can do this before it starts eroding your credibility.

Control,
however, is about influencing what the media writes about you, which can be
done by:


Preparation gives clarity: Prepare your ground as much as you can before
speaking to a journalist. Get a clear idea of the three key points you want to
get across in the interview/meeting. Ensure you have your client’s permission
to mention them. Practise these three points. Don’t read from a script, but do
refer to your notes.


Get your appropriate facts across: Ensure you know your ‘line’ well and that
it’s aligned with your fellow directors’ thinking. Be able to substantiate your
story with hard facts.


Use an appropriate language: Read/listen/watch/log-on to the ‘publication’
you’re speaking to before you talk to the journalist, to make sure you are
using the right words for their audience. Avoid jargon wherever possible. Bear
in mind that a national daily newspaper such as The Times will want a different
story to The Sun, and both will want a very different story to a trade
publication such as Personnel Today.


Keep it simple and to the point: Journalists value your straight-talking
insights into how the cutting edge of business is developing, rather than
long-winded opinions on tangential matters.


Understand their pressures: Call back when they say you should (even if to
arrange a better time) as a deadline really is a deadline. Most editorial teams
operate very leanly, so get to your point quickly.


Give yourself thinking time: Once the question is asked, think carefully about
your answer before giving it, and how you’re going to get your three messages
across. Memorise your notes to speed the process. If you don’t know the answer,
don’t guess. Promise to get back to them with the answer or additional
information and do so promptly or signpost them to another source.


Don’t fill empty time: It’s up to the journalist to fill the time, not you.


Beware of radio and TV studios: If there’s a microphone around, never assume
it’s turned off. Always check whether an interview is live or recorded.


If you don’t want to read it in the paper, don’t say it: There is no such thing
as ‘off the record’. Don’t make derogatory remarks about your competitors.
Don’t expect to see the story before it’s published.


Put life into your voice: Vary your tone and pace and punctuate your
conversation with light and shade. So much of what we say is how we say it,
rather than what is actually said.


Do this all in a confident and self-assured manner: Journalists can ‘smell
fear’, so…
Relax. Breathe deeply. Be calm, still and try not to fidget.
Be your natural professional self. Don’t put on an accent as it makes you sound
pretentious. Journalists, like all of us, relate better to real people.
Be interested in what the journalist has to say, and you’ll find yourself in a
natural conversation.

Angela
Podmore is a director of communications consultancy hatch-group.  www.hatch-group.com

For
more on dealing with the media, see our feature in Personnel Today magazine.

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