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Effective Media Relations. Why are we here? To learn about who the media are. To make you more comfortable when dealing with reporters. To find out about developing solid messages. To learn effective methods of controlling your agenda with the media. Effective Media Relations.

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Effective Media Relations

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effective media relations
Effective Media Relations
  • Why are we here?
    • To learn about who the media are.
    • To make you more comfortable when dealing with reporters.
    • To find out about developing solid messages.
    • To learn effective methods of controlling your agenda with the media.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Why do the media want to talk to us?
    • We’re news.
    • The public is interested in what we do.
    • Our decisions, policies and programs impact everyone in our jurisdiction.
    • We are spending tax dollars.
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Effective Media Relations
  • What is considered to be news?
    • Something new - A new way of doing things, new policies, new services.
    • Timely - Release information in a timely manner. Old information is not news.
    • Controversy - Just about everything we do will generate some controversy…Not everyone will agree with us.
    • Sensational - A freak accident, major snow storm, disaster, etc.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Who are the media?
    • Ordinary people.
    • Most have a higher than average level of curiosity.
    • Highly trained. Attend journalism or broadcasting school for a minimum of two years.
    • Most also have a university background.
    • They are human and can get caught up in the emotions of a story. Remember Dan Rather when he appeared on David Letterman after September 11.
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Effective Media Relations
  • The Media
    • Radio
    • The most flexible and quickest form of media.
    • Can be on the air within minutes.
    • Lot’s of frequency for your message.
    • Radio talk shows allow expanded coverage to deal with complex issues.
    • Short…Average length of a radio news story is 30 - 40 seconds…Your quote will be 5 - 15 seconds.
    • Most radio interviews are taped over the phone.
    • Not much time to prepare…Radio has hourly deadlines.
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Effective Media Relations
  • The Media
    • Television
    • Shows you the story…Strong visual impact.
    • Intimidating…The camera is right there.
    • Time…Average length of a TV news report is 1:30…Your quote will be between 10 - 20 seconds.
    • More than 70% of news consumers choose TV.
    • Incredible reach…Edmonton’s four TV stations reach more than 300,000 people during their 6:00 pm newscasts.
    • Looking for visual opportunities.
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Effective Media Relations
  • The Media
    • Print
    • Provides a permanent record.
    • Can offer better coverage on complex, detailed stories.
    • Can use photos, charts, graphs and maps to explain the story.
    • More staff…Bigger research budgets.
    • Newspapers often set the agenda for radio and TV.
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Effective Media Relations
  • The Media


    • Radio - Every hour is a deadline. Stories can be filed about ten minutes prior to broadcast.
    • Television - Noon and six are major deadlines. Stories can be filed as late as one hour prior.
    • Newspapers - Deadline is usually around 8PM, but can be extended to as late as 10PM.
    • Radio and television both have the capability to go live, and can be gathering information up to the very last minute.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Why would they want to talk to me?
    • You are the Subject Matter Expert.
    • The media wants to talk to someone directly involved in the project, program, issue.
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Effective Media Relations
  • What should I do when the media calls me?
    • Always return the call.
    • Find out what they want.
    • Ask them what the story is and what angle they are working on.
    • Find out who else they may be talking to.
    • Call your PR Unit to discuss the interview.
    • Gather all the information you need.
    • BE MESSAGE DRIVEN…What message do you want to relay to your audience?
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Effective Media Relations
  • Who is your audience?
    • The public.
    • Stakeholders on a given issue/Special interest groups.
    • City Council.
    • Employees.
    • Other levels of Government.
    • The media.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Building a relationship
    • Media can be your best friend or worst enemy.
    • Relationship has to be developed over a period of time.
    • Treat them well when they need you and it will pay off when you need them.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Tricks of the trade
    • Most reporters today are fair and are not trying to catch you at something or trying to make you look bad.
    • Reporters are not specialists in any given area any more and will rely on you for the best information.
    • Media outlets want to be credible sources of information and try hard to be accurate and balanced in their coverage.
    • A good reporter will do some research and will ask good, engaging and intriguing questions.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Tricks of the trade
    • Unsubstantiated claim
    • Reporter is using information that he/she claims came from a different source.
    • Reporter might not have information at all, but is fishing for information.
    • The information might be wrong.
    • Reporter is trying to get you to speculate.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Tricks of the trade
    • Paraphrase
    • Reporter incorrectly paraphrases what you said.
    • If it’s wrong…correct it.
    • “Would you say…”questions are usually paraphrased and could end up being a quote attributed directly to you.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Tricks of the trade
    • Silence Tactic
    • Reporter does not respond when you complete an answer and you blurt something out.
    • Ten seconds can seem like a lifetime.
    • When you are finished with your statement, remain silent yourself.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Tricks of the trade
    • Don’t answer hypothetical questions…They add nothing to a story.
    • Be aware of attempts to get you to say something negative about your corporation.
    • Keep personal opinions to yourself.
    • In a group setting interview (scrum) be aware of multiple questions and interruptions.
    • In a scrum, take control from the start. Tell the group you want to answer everyone’s question, but let’s keep it orderly and ask one question at a time.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Getting prepared for the interview
    • Comply with any reasonable request.
    • Make sure you know what you can or can’t say.
    • Develop your messages/Write down some key points.
    • Be honest…Your credibility and that of the corporation is on the line. “You are better off telling the truth, because then you don’t have to remember what you said”.
    • Stay within your area of responsibility and expertise.
    • Brainstorm questions and answers with your co-workers.
    • Rehearse and be prepared.
    • “Does anyone have any questions for my answers” – Henry Kissinger.
    • “If I know the answer, I’ll give you an answer…If I don’t, I’ll just respond cleverly” – Donald Rumsfeld.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Getting prepared for the interview
    • What three points do you want to make?
    • What is the most controversial issue that could be raised?
    • What could be the hardest question to answer and why?
    • Stay on your message and return to the three key points and try to relate all questions back to those points.
    • Use picture words…”Big as Texas” rather than just “big”.
    • Prove it! Back up your statement with facts, statistics, examples, quotes and stories.
    • Stay positive. If you are asked negative questions, get back to your three key points.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Getting prepared for the interview
    • Make sure you have a solid communications strategy including these elements:
      • Goals and Objectives
      • Key Messages
      • Tactics to be used
      • Opportunities to sell your message
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Effective Media Relations
  • Getting prepared for the interview
    • Developing a communications strategy:
      • What is your basic mandate?
      • What are your ultimate goals and objectives?
      • What recommendations are you making?
      • What mechanisms to you have in place to communicate with the public?
      • How do you engage the public?
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Effective Media Relations
  • The interview
    • The media follows a basic template:
    • Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, How Much.
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Effective Media Relations
  • The interview
    • Make sure you understand the question and that you know the answer.
    • Make your key message statements up front.
    • The media control the question…You control the answer!
    • Don’t make up answers…It’s alright to say you don’t know.
    • If you don’t know, tell them you will find an answer and get back to them.
    • Watch the length of your answers, in particular for radio and television…Don’t ramble!
    • Avoid jargon or lingo.
    • Don’t argue.
    • Be assertive, positive and take control.
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Effective Media Relations
  • The interview
    • Maintain good posture.
    • Talk to the reporter…Not the camera.
    • Don’t try to take the microphone.
    • Be aware of your personal nervous habits.
    • Know your speech habits…”Like you Know”…”Ummm”…
    • ”O-K”…”Right”.
    • Be proactive! Know what you want to say and say it with conviction.
    • Use your own words.
    • Listen!
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Effective Media Relations
  • The interview
    • NEVER say no comment - “When you say “No comment”, it means to me that you are admitting guilt, because if you’re not, you’d tell me what your position is” - Wolf Blitzer, CNN.
    • If you can’t comment, explain why.
    • Correct misinformation immediately.
    • Don’t say it if you don’t want it used.
    • There is no such thing as being “Off the Record”.
    • Avoid statements that can be taken out of context.
    • Be clear and concise…Don’t leave it up to the reporter to try to interpret what you mean.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Taking control of the interview
    • The answer is more important than the question.
    • Have your message ready and repeat it.
    • Plan your “ad libs” in advance.
    • Imagine what headline you would like to see in the newspaper and work toward that goal.
    • Don’t lose your temper…that will become the story and your message will be lost.
    • Be in command…You are the expert.
    • Know how to bridge or re-phrase the question to keep on your message.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Taking control of the interview

Bridging or re-phasing

    • “let me add…”
    • “It is important to emphasize…”
    • “It is important not to overlook…”
    • “along those lines, another question I’m often asked…”
    • “Yes, and in addition to that…”
    • “No, let me clarify…”
    • “It’s too early to talk about that until all the facts are in, but I can tell you…”
    • “People may have that misconception, but the truth is…”
    • “Let me put this in perspective…”
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Effective Media Relations
  • Taking control of the interview

Bridging or re-phasing

    • “The more important question is…”
    • “I think what people really want to know is…”
    • “What people are asking us is…”
    • “The real issue here is…”
    • “Before I answer that, you should know…”
    • “Let me tell you how we see this…”
    • “The key point to remember is…”
    • “My opinion is not what counts. We’re interested in hearing what the public has to say…”
    • “I’m not sure about that, but what I do know is…”
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Effective Media Relations
  • General tips
    • Release embarrassing or adverse information as soon as you can. Don’t try to hide bad news.
    • You have better control over the story by being pro-active rather than reactive.
    • Don’t block. The more you block, the more the media will chase.
    • Anticipate contrary points of view. Not everyone will agree with what you are saying and the media will look for other opinions to balance the story.
    • Don’t take it personally.
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Effective Media Relations
  • General tips
    • If you talk to one media outlet, be prepared to talk to them all.
    • If the media shows widespread interest, consider a news conference.
    • Be aware the media is always watching, listening and reading each other.
    • If you talked to a newspaper today, don’t be surprised to hear the story on the radio or tv the next morning.
    • Take advantage of media opportunities…It’s free advertising.
    • Learn about the media. Listen, watch and read so you know their style and how they report.
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Effective Media Relations
  • News releases/Advisories
    • Don’t use the term “Press Release”. That refers to print media only and does not sit well with radio and television.
    • Advisory- A short statement informing the media of a news conference or event. Should include basic information.
    • Release - A background document to be handed out at a news conference. One page if possible. Should include relevant facts, background information and contact names.
    • A news release is really our version of the story.
    • Most important facts should be first, followed by background details.
    • Should answer the 5 W’s and 2 H’s.
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Effective Media Relations
  • News Conference
    • Have a purpose.
    • Schedule your news conference early in the day…9:30 or 10:00 AM.
    • Invite everyone.
    • Limit the number of speakers you have.
    • Keep your opening statements short.
    • Have a release or backgrounder to hand out prior to the start of the news conference.
    • Leave plenty of time for questions and answers and for one on one interviews.
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Effective Media Relations
  • Taking advantage of media opportunities
    • The media is constantly looking for new information.
    • Free advertising…A 30 second commercial on TV costs about $3,000. A news interview is free!
    • Commercials are viewed with skepticism. News and information programming receive high trust levels.
    • Invite morning TV shows to cover your event, or arrange for a drop in visit (A-Channel Big Breakfast, Global Early Edition).
    • Consider radio talk shows…More time and instant public feedback.
    • Think about feature writers with the daily newspapers.
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Effective Media Relations
  • In Summary – Do’s and Don’ts
    • Do’s
      • Do tell the truth – ALWAYS.
      • Do be accurate.
      • Do admit if you don’t know the answer.
      • Do correct mistakes ASAP!
      • Do avoid jargon.
      • Do assume everything is on the record.
      • Do have a sense of humour.
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Effective Media Relations
  • In Summary – Do’s and Don’ts
    • Don’ts
      • Don’t lie – ever.
      • Don’t say “No comment” – ever.
      • Don’t improvise, speculate or guess.
      • Don’t try to put a comment off the record after you said it.
      • Don’t be unresponsive.