Question: We run an engineering services company, and often have cause to reach out to the media in order to achieve adequate publicity for what we do. The outcome has not been satisfactory, in spite of so much effort. I don’t have any academic or professional background in the related area, and the firm is yet to have a clear-cut department for related issues. I suspect there’re many things we’ve not been doing properly, hence my request for your vital tips on how to work with the media. Your positive response will be highly appreciated – Roland O.
Businesses often have the need to create awareness about what their operations entail. If this is well established in any organisation, it helps in ‘oiling the wheel’ of patronage and achievement of organisational goals, which ultimately lead to profit. Your engineering company may be providing phenomenal services as a major objective, but people need to know about the business first. Thank God you realize that the media plays a key role towards achieving this, as it is obvious that many people get their information from the media.
Publicity has a way of playing a vital role in helping organizations fulfill their mission. Most times media and communication activities will be the very effective tools that a company, like yours, can apply. Interaction with the Nigerian media is not peculiar. Even where allegations of ‘brown envelope’ loom large (that is, giving financial gratifications to journalists to incur favourable disposition to those seeking one form of publicity or another), well thought-out publicity campaigns no doubt help others to relate to whatever you are propagating. These can reach both broad and narrowly defined audiences, and often build support for your efforts.
Without bothering you with the wahala of definition, by ‘media”, I mean newspapers, magazines, television programs, radio shows, etc. With the advent of the Internet, the web has brought about another form of media (often referred to as New Media Platform), to complement these stated (‘traditional media’). Those that constitute this platform, and can become ‘handy’ to your company as tools of awareness, include web site, blogs, podcast, social media, short messaging service or sms, etc. Where your company still drags its feet towards establishing ‘a desk’ to handle media related issues, you can contact me on how to go about applying the above stated tools.
Familiarization and engagement with the media surely increase your company’s credibility and acclaim amongst the public. So, in order to fast track its efforts towards the enhancement of work with the media, the following take you through relevant input of communicating your firm’s message by working with the media.
Your first step in this effort should be to determine why your firm wishes to seek publicity. In other words, define your goal in this regard. Secondly, determine your audience. This, in a nut shell, portends that you should know the sources of your media – Their readers/listeners, circulation, type of information regularly posted, and above all who they reach (e.g. the general public, specific audience like professionals, policy makers, etc).
The next step after discerning who you intend to reach is to identify media outlets which suit your purpose (e.g. if your news releases are intended for newsletters, publications of professional organizations; local newspapers and magazines; radio stations and television channels). The same holds for when the media outlet serves your purpose for interviews on television or radio.
Do not hesitate to take advantage of unplanned events when they occur. In other words, always target opportunities. When such notable events, related to your company’s operations occur (e.g. completion of a major project, publicly recognized function), try to, at least produce a news release to help ‘sell’ your story. This implies that you should ‘keep an eye’ on opportunities to communicate with the media. All input aimed at achieving any level of success in the above stated areas will certainly come to nullity if a vital component, media relations, is left out.
As the name depicts, media relations implies good relationship with the media, whereby you facilitate the job of reporters and their editors by providing news worthy stories about your company, mostly presented in journalistic format. If you must continue to do your public relations (PR) yourself, remember it entails a specialized function which space constraint does not make for elucidation here. I suggest you don’t short-change your company.
Try to engage a professional in marketing communications (which includes PR). Do so, even if it entails a “one-man department”, for better results. Nevertheless, it is important to foster contacts with editors, reporters, and others in the media. The more you build rapport with people in the media, the better your chances of favourable relationships for future opportunities.
A PR person will know what it takes to make connections with journalists, and convey company’s appreciation for the good coverage of your activities; he will know if appropriate to call reporters after sending out news releases, to ascertain if there is interest in further information about a story. He is trained to realize when reporters are being inundating with too many news releases. There is need to be persistent (people in the media are very busy, and require moves on your part to seek them out in order to get media attention). I advice you workout the best mode of achieving this (e.g. to follow-up through a phone call; making contact within the morning hours).
You must have news worthy story to arouse media interest (e.g. a new business concept which no one has heard or said before, that benefits a large number of readers, viewers, listeners, and impacts a specific audience). Ascertain which medium is relevant, as different media outlets will be optimal for different information.
The functions of the professional communications person, suggested above, will help provide these components of composite media: Production of news release; organize news briefings, news conferences (including preparing related media kits), special events, exhibitions, and conferences.
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