We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” The thesis behind this statement is that if the media or public are talking about your business, they’re helping to raise your profile simply by mentioning you, regardless of the context. While there may be a bit of truth behind this concept, the reality is that not all types of publicity are equal—and some are very bad for a company, especially in times of litigation or crisis.
A good relationship with your local and industry media and a strong PR strategy are essential to keeping a positive image. Here are some tips to make that happen:
Maintain a master list of media contacts—and customize each pitch
Every business should have a designated media contact. That person should have a background in public speaking, PR and negotiation training, and the ability to stay calm under pressure and think on their feet. Whoever assumes that responsibility needs to make it a priority to build a master list of media contacts. This is sometimes as simple as checking the “contact us” section of their website.
It’s a good idea to reach out to reporters by email, but see if you can make an appointment to meet them face to face at their office or invite them to lunch. They are usually very busy, but they’ll appreciate the invitation. Tell them about yourself and make sure they understand what your business does. Most importantly, find out how they prefer to receive communication and enter that into your master list. Most will want to hear from you via email, while others and open to a call, a direct message or social media invite. Customize your communication to each outlet to help ensure that it’s read and considered.
Keep news releases simple
Once you’ve established how each entity likes to receive communication, make sure you give them simple news releases in their preferred format. Regardless of how it is sent, there are three important things to do:
- Use a professional news release format or template
- Describe your announcement or event in two to three paragraphs or less, and
- Include contact information if they wish to follow-up and learn more
The news release should be no longer than a standard page and a half. If that seems too short to get your message out, remember that you can always let them know how to learn more by including a link to a website.
Follow up without being a pest
When you’re first reaching out and establishing your relationships with media outlets, a good question to ask is this: “When I send a press release, I like to follow up to make sure it’s been received. What is the least annoying way I can do that for you?” This shows that you’re acknowledging that their time is valuable and considering their feelings by trying to not make their job more difficult. Make a note of their answer on your master list and follow up accordingly if you don’t hear back from them within one to two days.
Get out in front of any negative story
Lastly, a note on crisis management. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with a truly damaging incident. If you do, however, this is where a good personal relationship with the media can save you. If you have goodwill with these reporters, they will be more eager and open-minded to hear your side of the story. Be proactive and contact them first and offer to make a statement or give an interview.
The best way you can maintain a good public image is to treat members of the media well. They will be more likely to return the favor.