Media Relations: Who’s Working For Whom?

You know media. You know communications. You know what will resonate.

Your client knows… his customers. He knows why they came initially. He knows what makes them come back. He knows what makes them spend money.

You tell your client that something different, funny, unique, gimmicky about his organization will interest the morning TV news people or the feature reporter at your neighborhood paper. Your client says customers don’t really care about those things, that they are more concerned about products, service and prices.

You explain that your client’s employee with great musical abilities, a cool custom car, a famous relative or a wardrobe that’s all day-glo will attract attention. That something new in the organization that’s clever, cute and not exactly the “same old same old” will cause certain media types to take note. Then, when you have that media attention, you also include your client’s standard message to (current and future) customers.

Can you control media content? No. There are stories of companies and their PR folks bringing in celebrities for an event, such as a product launch. The reporter spends an hour with the celeb and gets a great profile piece for his paper or news show, but fails to mention the new product!

There is that unwritten “quid pro quo” that works like this: if you give a media outlet a decent bit of content, the outlet will mention your commercial endeavors. For example, a business owner moonlights as an NFL referee. The local TV or newspaper sports reporter does a story on his work at the games. The reporter will likely mention that the ref also owns a home remodeling company and spends his weekdays designing kitchens.

My point is this: Listen to your client. You are a consultant. But follow your own media relations instincts. Work to assure that at least part of the client’s message to customers is included in the overall coverage. Do this by giving the media person a list of message points. But first, you must obtain the coverage!

The fact that your client, say, raises chickens in an urban setting is what will get him coverage. The fact that he also, say, sells computer software is incidental to the reporter. The job of the media relations pro is to make sure that the reporter knows about his job as a software salesman (complete with company information) and has a good reason to include that fact in the story.

Yes, you work for your client. But only as long as you get results.


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