Why dealing with the media needn't leave you in a spin
Published 14/10/2010 | 05:00
PICTURE the scene: You own a factory in Mayo and you have a staff of 100. In the last few days, you have had to make a difficult decision. You inform your staff that you need to let five people go. Following your announcement, the local radio station has been chasing you for a quote. What do you do?
In situations like this it is easy to feel hounded and see the media as your enemy. But if you take the right approach, the media can be your friend. It can help you put yourself across to your team and to your customers in the best possible light.
It's the media's responsibility to tell both sides of a story and, by and large, most journalists live up to that responsibility.
You can take action right now and get the media on your side with these simple tips.
Find the right angle
The media is always looking for an angle, a hook that makes a story stand out. Figuring out what your angle is and what you want to say will help you to cope with any questions the media put your way.
If you were the Mayo factory owner, there are two angles you could explore.
You could take a transparent approach, explaining that you needed to shed the jobs in order to save the rest of the jobs. You can soften the blow by reassuring people that the new processes you've brought in will lead to more efficient service for your customers.
Or you could accentuate the positive. Demonstrate that you're taking care of your former employees by offering them money for retraining and point to the good work your factory has done for the local community.
End on a hopeful note by saying that with increased profitability you may be able to take back your previous employees, and by thanking those employees for the hard work they have put in.
Other strategies you could use include hosting an open day for the media and locals. Make sure to offer plenty of free food and drink -- the media love freebies!
Or maybe your factory's new processes make it more environmentally friendly. That's a real good-news story for your factory.
Make a statement
When a crisis strikes, take pre-emptive steps by making a statement to the press. This shows the media that you are willing to talk. Journalists are working to tight deadlines, so they'll be delighted that you're making yourself readily available.
As the chief executive of our hypothetical Mayo factory, you can create a short statement explaining why you've taken this step and what your plans are for the future.
End the statement with a quote emphasising your regret at the redundancies.
Planning for the future
Good media management isn't just about firefighting. It's important to create a strategy that will help you develop an ongoing relationship with the media. First, identify outlets for your press releases.
What local media is available to you? Don't forget to include radio stations as well as newspapers.
If you read any publications or listen to radio programmes that are relevant to your business, you could target them.
Start sending your press releases to these outlets and keep sending them -- persistence is the key.
You may not believe this, but journalists are human beings! And the personal touch goes a long way. Within the outlets you've chosen, make a note of the names of the journalists who are producing the pieces.
If you ring the organisations, they'll be happy to supply you with an email address or phone number, so you can contact them. Don't worry if you don't get an instant response -- if you keep sending press releases, journalists will recognise your name and start featuring you.
Call in the professionals
As a small business owner, it can be hard to find the time or the perspective to deal with the media. Consulting with a PR agency will help you make the most of what the media has to offer.
Tara Dalrymple worked for publisher Dorling Kindersley and PR agency Financial Dynamics and is the founder and chief executive of Busy Lizzie Lifestyle Management