PUBLIC RELATIONS IS A
MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITY

Executive Level  Meeting

 

 

Public Relations is a executive level combination of art, science and instinct. It is a lot more than just making people happy. You and your public relations staff must be able to identify key issues of public concern. Public relations has a marketing  job to do — and yet at the same time it serves as the corporate conscience. One definition of public relations supports both of these goals: "Public relations is doing good and getting credit for it." At the heart of any public relations program is the concept of ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST or SELFISH ALTRUISM

PUBLIC RELATIONS IS A BIG FIELD:
Community Relations
Employee Relations
Stockholder Relations
Government Relations
News Media Relations

THE BENEFITS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

WHAT PUBLIC RELATIONS IS NOT GOOD FOR:

PUBLIC RELATIONS DOES NOT REACH LOTS OF PEOPLE QUICKLY Unlike  an ad campaign, public relations takes more time to get word out.

PUBLIC RELATIONS IS NO GOOD FOR OVERWHELMING PEOPLE The public does not talk about public relations campaigns like ad campaigns.

PUBLIC RELATIONS CANNOT MAKE AN EXTREMELY SPECIFIC POINT All your words are shaded by news media writers' perspectives.

PUBLIC RELATIONS IS NO GOOD FOR THE ORGANIZATION WHICH WANTS FREQUENT COVERAGE. You have no assurance at all of what will be covered and when.

THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES IN PUBLIC RELATIONS You never have a guarantee that what you do will be covered by the news media to your satisfaction.

"Nothing crystallizes into anything important until one person says something to another person by word of mouth."

IMAGE POWER: How we get it—and lose it
Identity—is how organizations present themselves to their publics.
Identity is substance—the design of ads, the courtesy of people, appearance of offices, and so on.

Image —  is the collective perceptions help by the public.  Image is response to the substance of identity.

We are dealing with an accumulation of impressions over time. Impressions are intangible—but vital to organization's future. A tarnished image can be restored with positive action.

An organization or company with image power has many benefits:

The greater the identity, the greater the public expectation. There is a greater danger of a gap between identity and performance. Management must make a long term commitment to public relations. The boss has to understand and believe.

BUILDING SOUND NEWS MEDIA RELATIONS

Visualize people out there hungry for your information.  Assume a positive coverage of your interview.  You may be misquoted.  You may be grilled with hostile questions.  You may be quoted out of context.  The story may be slanted or reporting rumor or innuendo.  Even so, the greatest danger is for you to overreact to negative coverage.  Do not attack the media.  Do what you must to quickly put the matter to rest. Recognize that businesses need to stop relying on the news media as their only means of  delivering their messages. Find ways to take your information directly to the public.  This is why public speaking skills and the ability to create interesting, appealing and important messages is so vital for executives.

 

WHAT ARE JOURNALISTS DOING?
Reporters are usually chasing small bits of information.
Matters are defined by where power is.  Who opposes who?
A lot of usual things are not covered—just discontinuities.
Journalism is not responsible for "the larger truth."

 

HOW DO WE GET OUR CONCERNS TO POP UP OUT OF BACKGROUND?

We must keep coming up with dramatic focal points. Editors and anchor men and women appear to have answers, but they are really asking us a question: "What is this event or development going to mean to us?"


MEETING THE PRESS 

Sometimes scary, often rewarding.  Fun and exhilarating when you are prepared.  Be a player—not a spectator. Good or bad—take the initiative in all cases. Fear of controversy or criticism is a luxury no organization can afford. It is the reporter's job to dig behind the scenes. The public has a right to balanced information about your operations.

 

UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC RELATIONS:

Doing Good and Getting Credit For It
Advertising and public relations are like bacon and eggs—they go great together on the same plate but they are not the same thing. Advertising asks for the order. Public relations activities build needed credibility and an understanding of what you offer the picture-taking public.  As you can see, these two functions are both vital to building your future business, yet they are not interchangeable.

One of our favorite definitions of public relations is: doing good and getting credit for it. This means that from a public relations standpoint, you have the responsibility of both doing worthwhile things in the public's interest and seeing that the public learns of these helpful acts. These are two distinct activities calling for separate skills.

THE NEWS RELEASE

Your main communication method with the media is the news release or feature release.  A release is a specialized means of reporting stories to the news media.  As we outline below, there is a specific format and style for this information.

The raw materials for these stories can be contributed by your staff in the form of printed articles, manuscripts or letters.

THE FORM OF A NEWS RELEASE

Editors will be looking at both form and content of any release they receive. They will see the form of the news release first.

Many stories are written in what is called the inverted pyramid news style. This simply means the most important information is presented first with information of lesser value following. The most vital facts for the reader, therefore, should appear first in such news stories. This is done for two reasons:

1. To allow readers to stop anywhere in the story having gained the most important information in the initial paragraphs.

2. To allow editors to cut or edit the story from the bottom without omitting vital information.

News releases can fall into several categories:

WHAT MAKES A GOOD NEWS STORY?

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A NEWS RELEASE?

First of all, a decision needs to be made with each project: Will a story be sent to all appropriate media or will an exclusive story be offered to the best news media in one or two non competing fields? To make this decision, consider the attraction an exclusive has for business editors—a story that is theirs alone. You will gain many advantages yourself with exclusives. If you successfully place the story with a major metropolitan daily, you have a greater circulation, in some cases, than all the community weeklies combined. Remember, you want publicity, but the newspaper or magazine wants NEWS—or a feature that provides worthwhile travel information to its readers. Thus you need to think in terms of news making rather than publicity.  (We will be discussing what news is later.)     If your goal is to be press coverage for an upcoming event, your first priority is to get a story in advance of the event.  That, of course, is because the coverage might help bring in additional customers.  If the media would rather report only on what occurred, then consider the value of that sort of coverage in building awareness for your future activities. In either case, the resulting article is a valuable tool in building credibility for future business—so consider reproducing and distributing all favorable articles.  Use those reprinted articles in all your related mailings. They build your credibility and prestige.

 

MEDIA COVERAGE WITH IMPACT: PREPARING A FEATURE

The steps involved in creating a feature release:

If your story is a good one, you're likely to place it.

WHAT IS NEWS?

A good news item contains most of these characteristics:

Timeliness      Proximity        Significance      Prominence

A story is enhanced if it shows progress, has suspense, contains oddity, conflict and humor.  In addition, it should contain human emotions. Human interest is always welcome: children, animals, the family, life-saving actions, all have great appeal.   Photography is at its best capturing all of these.

SOME SPECIAL TIPS FOR SUCCESS WITH MEDIA

Localizing: The secret to success in dealing with  community newspapers is customizing the stories to their interest.  What interests local newspapers most are newsworthy activities taking place in the paper's distribution area.

Premature Exposure: Remember that the media want action,  not ideas. If you are about to launch a new concept in photography, recognize that the news media will want to see examples of how it works.  Make it work first -- then go after press coverage.

Invite the Media: Send the news media invitations and  tickets to your events.  If your budget can handle it invite them along to certain events as your guest or at a greatly reduced rate.  Recognize that quality news media people are sensitive to being bought.  Your  invitation does not entitle you to cheery coverage if something goes sour.

Stay Positive: Don't be surprised or upset if your story is changed or is not used. Even the best stories are often re-written by good newspapers.  Never complain if your story does not appear as you wanted it.  Learn from the experience--and smile.

Say Thanks:  When a story is particularly well done--write a letter to the reporter's boss. That's even better than a letter to the writer.  It is a good idea to send a letter even if the story was just adequate.  Don't thank reporters for the story--that's their job.  Thank them for their ability to cover a complex, sensitive, difficult topic, etc.

Know Deadlines: News people can get really cranky when they are on deadline.  Make sure you know when deadlines are before calling.

One Release Per Publication: Never send a story to two different editors at the same paper.  For example, it might seem logical to send a copy of your release to both the travel editor and the society writer.  If you do, mark both copies clearly: "Action copy to the real estate editor -- this for your information only," for example.

Remember that reporters and editors are busy  and are nearly always pressed for time.  Appeal to their need to save time. Give them what they need in the form they need it.

LEARNING WHAT PUBLICATIONS WANT

Most newspapers receive 10 times the amount of material they can use.  You are competing with all this. Fortunately for you, most of it is junk, such as:

PHOTOGRAPHY SUPPORT

When photographing groups, bear in mind some members of your organization may not want their pictures used for publicity.  Announce your intentions clearly beforehand.  Just as in preparing for radio and television appearances, you should hand-pick a group to represent your organization, get a good mix of people. Set up your photographic setting carefully.  Find a spot in your meeting place that looks modern, comfortable and neat.

 

GETTING ALONG WITH PHOTOGRAPHERS

Photographs with clarity and quality are valuable resources for public relations and advertising. Digital photos are now indistinguishable from film. If you are a small business or a non-profit organization, your first problem in photography might be to find a photographer you can afford. You can pay from as little as $25 an hour to $1000 or more a day for photographers. Look for young people starting out. You may, on rare occasions, be able to find a volunteer in the organization who will do the job for expenses.

In either case, you must check out the photographer in advance:                      

Your goal as a photographer or supervisor of a photographer is to have a photo that tells a story and enhances other information or materials being used.  Let's talk about some specifics in this area:   The photo should tell a story.  Only rarely can you walk into a situation and shoot it as it is and have it tell a story well.

PHOTOGRAPHS NEED TO SHOW

A GOOD PHOTO SHOULD HAVE:

PHOTOGRAPHY DO’S AND DON'TS:

Avoid presentation shows at all costs: Trite, same thing basically from Congressional Medal of Honor to the Azalea award at the La Jolla Garden Club. If you have to shoot it, consider over- the- shoulder-shots, on the scene.  Explain "Looking in is so-and-so" type photos of presentations. Consider as a substitute: Person on the job, or doing what got  him or her the award.

Remember in working with a photographer: Tell him or her what to shoot, but not how to shoot it.  If you are not seeing your carefully considered idea being used, tactfully suggest it. i.e. "Please take a shot for me like this" after the photographer has set up his own work. A good photograph improves the chances of a well-written news release being used.

When being a photographer, or working with one, take charge politely when it is time to take photos.  The people being photographed expect the photographer to know what he or she is doing.  Don't get shy or passive -- get the job done.

LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS

You cannot become a photographer today or even in a few days.  But with time and practice you can become a skillful photographer.  But here are a few reminders if you are looking through a lens or supervising an inexperienced photographer:

Your goal in photography is to sell a story.  If you can tell a story in the photo without the help of a cutline -- you're doing it right.  You will, of course need to supply cutlines -- you may call them captions -- with each digital photo. 

HOW TO HOLD A NEWS CONFERENCE

First, of all, don't. They are grossly overdone. If you are involved in one, make sure the news being presented is truly timely and cannot be presented to the news media fairly any other way. Most of these events are ego exercises for management. Be careful not to get caught in one that is poorly planned. 

If there is any way to provide the news media with all the information you have in a timely way that supports all media equally, do not put on this event.  If not, follow these guidelines.

TOOLS FOR GOOD NEWS MEDIA RELATIONS

PRESS KITS
Most people over do press kits. We do not plan to get carried away in the amount of material you send the news media. Consider these contents:

WORKING WITH RADIO AND TELEVISION STATIONS    

You have three avenues for promotion by electronic media:

BOOKING AND COORDINATING TALK SHOWS AND INTERVIEWS

One important avenue of publicity involves scheduling a representative for interviews on radio and television talk shows and interview programs.  Every city  has a number of these programs.  Some are widely listened to, others are aired  at obscure early morning hours on weekends.

In preparation for these talk show bookings, we recommend that you gather background  information on your work and outline the most interesting and entertaining features. With this information in hand, you can begin calling the media representatives.

You should call interview program producers in their order of importance to your company. Generally speaking, you will want to call the stations with the biggest  audiences first,  working your way down to worthwhile but perhaps less prominent programs. If you need practice being on the air, start with the smaller stations first. No point in goofing in front of a huge group.

Follow up your calls with a media kit which provides more detail on your program. Included should be:

1. A follow-up letter, outlining your interests.

2. A suggested set of perhaps 20 interview questions.

3. A company brochure -- and the store representative's biography.

4. One or two selected articles from major media, if you have them.

5. News release(s), if appropriate.

Some of the producers will book guests with only a phone call by way of introduction.  In those cases,  this packet of material serves to prepare the producer and on-air personality (sometimes they are the same person) for the interview with the guest.  In other cases, the media representatives will want a closer look at his work. Follow up on the media kit mailing about a week after it is mailed.

BUILDING SOUND MEDIA RELATIONS

1. BE HONEST. Reporters can tell--they make their living talking to people.  It's OK to say "I don't know." Find out--and call back.

2. CALL THEM BACK. Not after lunch, not after a coffee break--do it immediately.  The media works on deadlines. Miss a deadline and you can forget some stories.

3. IT'S A MUTUAL-AID SITUATION: You are not doing the media a favor.

If you want coverage—hustle.

4. REPUTATION: Make your name stand for a good story every time.

PUBLIC RELATIONS FACT FILE

As part of your files and resources, we recommend that you build a special collection of materials which will help support your public relations program.  These materials can help with news media liaison, speaking engagements and other activities.
  1. Statistical figures concerning your company.
  2. Photography publications, books and other materials which provide an overall perspective on the industry.
  3. Color and black and white photographs of your activities.
  4. Reproductions of significant articles about the photography business which have appeared in publications.
  5. A log of radio, television coverage and speaking engagements.
  6. Biographical data on individuals with whom contacts are desired (major new business prospects, political figures, industry leaders).
  7. A publicity calendar for planning special events. Such a timetable should not conflict with holidays, competing or conflicting activities.
  8. Lists of possible public relations interrelationships with other photography businesses, organizations or community events.
  9. A log of materials available to help with interviews or special events. 
  10. This reminds you where to find  props, charts, maps, and other audio-visual aids which might be used by your speakers.
  11. A supply of brochures, reprinted articles, CDs, posters and other materials which might be helpful.

PUBLIC RELATIONS PLANNING

As your public relations program is being carried out, several aspects of the campaign should be reviewed from time to time. This is a ten-point framework for planning.  We see it as a format for discussion at the next public relations meeting.

1.  WHAT ARE YOUR OBJECTIVES: Your priorities must relate as closely as possible to the attitudes that surround the business community you serve.

2.  WHAT ARE YOUR MARKET'S PRESENT ATTITUDES: Take a detailed look at everything that your organization touches.

3.  WHAT ARE YOUR SPECIFIC OBSTACLES?  This calls for a careful consideration of governmental, social and competitive barriers to your progress.

4.  WHAT ARE YOUR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?  What is there in today's social or economic climate that could help you grow?

5.  WHAT ARE YOUR PRESENT ACTIVITIES?  Look at what is now being done to see how they measure up to the conditions just mentioned.

6.  WHAT ARE OTHERS DOING? You should keep a close eye on related travel business and your allies.

7.  IS THERE A COMPLETE OVERVIEW?  It is important to be able to think of a chain of consequences in the future rather than just present activities.

8.  ARE YOU TRACKING FAR ENOUGH IN ADVANCE?  Future attitudes of the business public need to be accurately predicted.  You should be ready to speak out on issues before criticism is launched.

9.  HAVE YOU PROVIDED ALLOWANCES FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION'S INTERNAL POLICIES, PERSONALITIES AND SITUATION

PECULIARITIES?  Everyone is different.  Your individuality and working philosophy help attract specific kinds of people to you.

CRISIS PUBLIC RELATIONS

BAD NEWS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

Occasionally you will have incidents that you could just sweep under a rug or hide in a closet.  If the news media find out, you had better be prepared to deal with them frankly and openly.  How you handle bad news can affect how your good news is received for years. Journalists have long memories about organizations they cover—and they tell other writers about their experiences. As the old saying goes, don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

You don't have to announce any bad news—but if clarifying incidents or public welfare is involved, it may be important to do so.

If a journalist thinks information the public would want to know is being hidden, the story may be blown out of proportion.  Frankness, openness and matter-of-factness often result in a small story or none at all.

The key point here is that there is an opportunity hidden in every crisis.  And the best way to take advantage of that opportunity is to plan ahead and be ready to turn adversity into a positive opportunity with all of the publics you deal with.  Don’t throw away your future with the news media.  Journalists have long memories. How you handle the troubling situations with the media with help you with all the pleasant, positive stories in years to come. If your company is seen as overly guarded and secretive in a bad news situation, it may never see happy-talk coverage again.  

What's a crisis?  It has all the makings of breaking news: it is a urgent situation, it occurred suddenly and it involves important people — your corporation's management.  A crisis can shape a reputation — or shake one up.

There will always be an accident or incident that gets your management's or the public's full attention.  In this type of situation there is little time or energy for politics, bureaucratic fumbling , foot-dragging or finger-pointing.  Negative publicity is the kind that people always remember, but this can be turned into something positive with the right preparations.

Here's the good news: You wanted the firm in the public eye, now you have it:  Everyone is focused on this single issue, the crisis.  The firm can now demonstrate its concern and skills to the attentive news media and  public. There can be good news wrapped up in a crisis situation.   If your top executives can avoid a misguided siege mentality,  you can turn into a long term public awareness  benefit.

Crises, emergencies and disasters can come from within or outside the organization.  When and where they might occur cannot be predicted, but many situations can be anticipated.  You can plan for, train for and be ready for many incidents.

The greatest hazard to the long term well being of the company in a disaster may not be the physical loss caused by the incident, but the damage to corporate credibility caused by disorganization.  And being disorganized is most likely during the first 24 hours of a crisis.

Panic is contagious — so don't panic.  No matter how chaotic things are within the organization during a crisis, your executives must appear as capable and caring people who are on top of the situation.  Prompt, skillful communication can ease a crisis situation and help solve many problems.  Each public announcement needs to balance bad news with some good news: a hero in your midst, plans for restructuring the organization, new equipment being installed, etc.

TYPES OF EMERGENCIES

It is vital for corporations and organizations to expect disasters and be prepared for them.  Being aware of which disasters are more common, understanding their potential consequences, and assessing how prepared you are in dealing with them is an essential part of your company's growth and success.  Everyone involved must develop a sense of disaster judgment which tells them what problems will go away quickly and quietly, and which will put you out of business.  A disaster from the following six categories could affect your operation at any given time.

NATURE:  Earthquakes, floods, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather-related disasters can wreak extensive damage to your company.

ENVIRONMENTAL: This category includes plant accidents, chemical spills, industrial explosions, pollution of land or bodies of water,  and toxic waste concerns.  

MANAGEMENT:  A variety of legal and financial concerns can turn into serious incidents: shareholder suits, hostile takeover attempts, bankruptcies, etc.  Sudden serious illness or injury to high level executives might also fall into this category.

PRODUCTS: Products can malfunction, be tampered with, become contaminated or require a recall.  There are other liability concerns related to products.

SERVICES: Service industries have problems such as fire, railway or vehicle accidents, aircraft high jacking or power failures.

EMPLOYEES: Plant closings, strikes, walkouts, drug testing, discrimination, and protest activities lead to crisis situations that must be reckoned with in an effective and efficient manner.

CRIME: Looting, terrorism, on-site murder, vandalism, and embezzlement are just several injustices that a company must be prepared to deal with.

WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

If this information is not provided, rumors and pubic alarm will fill the void.  This can create emotions in the public which can quickly cause problems more harmful than the original incident. Your executives must understand that, right or wrong, silence implies guilt.

How To Prepare:

1. Create a list of potential problems that could lead to crisis.

2. Create a written communication plan which can answer these questions:

3. Familiarize all members of crisis team with communication plan.

4. Familiarize all executives with communication plan and get their approval.

5. Gain the public's trust by communicating with them whether or not there is an emergency . 

WORKING WITH THE NEWS MEDIA DURING A CRISIS

Incidents and event which occur during the daily business of companies and organizations often become newsworthy.  Of these occurrences, emergencies and accidents are of particular interest, but most companies are not prepared to deal with the news media when an emergency hits them.The realities of today's business environment is that public relations and marketing professionals are loaded with the day to day demands of product publicity, employee communications, community affairs and government relations.   They may not be able to handle the results of a major fire, earthquake, chemical spill, or indiscretions such as a minority employment conflict or sexual harassment charge.The media has a way of building up pressure on you and your company during a crisis, but remaining calm and taking control efficiently during these times can make all the difference.  The desire to avoid the media during a crisis is a common one, but past experience has shown that one of the worst ways to deal with the media during these times  is to interfere with them by refusing to give up factual information, and by preventing their access onto the scene.

 

HOW TO PREPARE FOR HANDLING A CRISIS

  1. Be familiar with, and have a broad knowledge of all aspects of the media.  Know what you are going to be dealing with.  Read through all the newspapers and magazines—be familiar with the writers.  Also, understand the workings of radio and television programs.
  2. Keep and update a media contact list.  Call these contacts every now and then to keep up on the latest.
  3. Concentrate on the media that you want to be exposed in and want access to. This means keeping in touch on a regular basis, so that in a time of crisis you can have them cover your news.
  4. Become a knowledgeable communicator for your organization. When the media needs you to be there to
    provide information, don't let them down. Give them a number where they can reach you when they need you—not only when you want to give them some news.
  5. Make it a habit to furnish background information about your company and your industry.  Keep a file of all clippings that relate to your organization, whether you planted them or not.
  6. Be prepared with a company spokesperson.  This person should have skills in public speaking and media presentations.  Like you, the spokesperson should be knowledgeable in the workings of your organization and be aware of all current activities.  The person should also be available to the press whenever he/she needs to be reached.

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