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How to get the most out of media coverage

You may have had your marketing communications budget locked in the volt with an army of men guarding it for the past 12 months. Suddenly the sun starts shining from behind the clouds of recession and you realise you haven’t been communicating with your customers for months. So what is the investment you will be making in your brand in 2010 to get ahead of your competitors and ensure your customers feel engaged with the right messages?

Media TrainingMany of you will be trying to stand out from the crowd by updating the company website, investing in social media, starting a publicity campaign, revamping your e-newsletters or starting your own industry blog. But one essential part of investing in your brand is often forgotten and is the most critical.

In a recent industry magazine, a new CEO wrote a letter to the editor wondering how important media training was to her role, as she stumbled through interviews and was petrified of the media. Lack of media training for the spokesperson of any organisation is like being an accountant without owning a calculator. Put simply, it is a vital business tool.

Media training is an investment in your brand and the difference between being media savvy and a media disaster is alienating your customers or inspiring them–becoming useful talent for the media ongoing, or being banned from that media outlet.

Examples of people in the public eye that should have invested in media training are George W Bush, Britney Spears, Pauline Hanson and a few rogue footballers in Australia to name a few. However, media training isn’t just for politicians, sporting stars and celebrities. How many times have you stopped using a product because of some bad press that they didn’t take responsibility for, and how many times has your company missed opportunities because your team wasn’t prepared? Dare I say it, how many times have we heard ‘no comment’ and automatically thought ‘well they’re guilty and I won’t do business with them anymore’.

There certainly is an art to maximising media opportunities and ensuring they are an opportunity, not a threat, and we all need to be prepared to represent our brand should A Current Affair show up on the doorstep.

Today, the world of the media is instant and with the invasion of social media it is no longer just the media that we have to be conscious of, but also our customers and competitors who now have a voice too. As a spokesperson for your brand, you must be prepared at all times. You might be thinking, ‘but I am not a celebrity I don’t need that sort of intensive training do I?’ Ultimately, if you intend to represent yourself and your company in the media at any level you should be using your media time as an opportunity to raise awareness of your brand, impart your key messages and impress your audience. Celebrity, CEO or business owner, the foundations and goals are all the same.

The Media

Your company spokesperson should understand the media environment: radio, print, TV and online and what each medium requires from you. Do they want a 30-second grab, do they need footage of you, do they wish to conduct the interview via email, should you be expecting a media ambush, are you holding a press conference, will you be doing a pre-recorded radio interview?

What makes news?

Do you know the eight news values: timeliness, proximity, human interest, impact, prominence, the bizarre, conflict and currency? Does your story have some of these values? If it doesn’t, it isn’t a story.

What is news to you?

An interesting exercise with your team is to discuss what is actually newsworthy in your business. What do your customers care about? How can you make your point of difference newsworthy? Are there any trends in your industry? Is there something you do that is relevant to a hit news topic that you can offer advice on?

Key messages

Another exercise is to run through your company key messages with your team. I can guarantee you that most of them will not know what they are. We train with corporations all day, every day on their key messages and get them on camera in an interview situation and they forget them straight away. So, have a memo with your key messages taped to everyone’s desks so you are all singing from the same book and before an interview, run through these messages again and again.

What to wear and where to look

First impressions count on every level and when courting the media it is no different. The way you present yourself for an interview or photo shoot will contribute to the overall impact of the story. Up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal, so your outfit, body language, eye movement, tone of voice, hand gestures and facial expression will also paint a picture of your brand, good or bad.

The truth behind ‘No comment’

Many corporations think by not making a comment they will be safer. The truth behind ‘no comment’ is that it implies guilt and it doesn’t instil confidence in your brand. Even if you don’t know the answer, show responsibility and say you will find out and come back to them. Remember the media is the vehicle by which your customers are hearing the message. If you shut out the media, you shut out your customers and a business that doesn’t have customers won’t be in business for long. Remember a crisis can’t be avoided, but it can be managed.

Bridging techniques

The rules of engagement when you deal with the media are that you will provide information. The mistake that is commonly made is that you have no control over the information you give; after all you aren’t really in control of this interview…or are you? The key to turning a question into an opportunity is bridging. Questions are a means to communicate your key messages. When asked a question you either don’t know the answer to, or don’t wish to comment on, rely on your bridging statement:

  • I don’t know about that, but what I do know is….KEY MESSAGE
  • The real issue here is….KEY MESSAGE
  • I can’t say that, but what I can say is….KEY MESSAGE
  • Here is another way to look at it….KEY MESSAGE
  • That is an interesting point, however….KEY MESSAGE.

It isn’t rocket science, but good and bad interviews can make or break your business. So when deciding what to invest in this year, invest in your media presence and ensure what you are offering makes you look like a trained media professional and not Mercedes Corby.

–Fleur Madden-Topley is MD of Red PR (www.redpr,com.au) in Brisbane and Blue By Red PR in Sydney.

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Fleur Madden-Topley

Fleur Madden-Topley

Fleur is managing director of <a href="http://www.redpr.com.au">Red PR</a> in Brisbane and Blue by Red PR in Sydney. She started her career as a journalist and Red PR was born out of the necessity for public relations professionals to deliver quality work and exceed both their clients’ and the media’s expectations. In seven years, Red has become one of the most respected lifestyle PR agencies in Australia. In 2008, it was the first Australian agency asked to partner with PROI, the largest global group of independently owned agencies.

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