Even Footing with the Media
Gone are the days when newspaper publishers wrote what they wanted and television stations pushed their weight around the community. In today’s world, media companies are owned by public companies that are driven by quarterly earnings. This means newspapers, networks and local TV stations are afraid of lawsuits and controversy that can damage the parent company’s reputation.
It is now possible to put yourself on even footing with these media titans as long as you know which areas to exploit. The first thing you must understand is any story with legal ramifications doesn’t just appear on television or in the newspapers. Depending on the complexity and litigious risk of the topic, every story must go through a rigorous script-approval process. And the more hands involved with that script-approval process, the better odds you have of influencing the story’s coverage.
The key is identifying the decision-makers involved with the editorial process and understanding how the different newsrooms operate. A news agency has a hierarchy just like any other corporation, and you must learn how to identify the critical players at each stage of the story if you wish to effectively manage the message or manipulate the media. By learning the intricacies and systemic operations, you can better withstand guerilla warfare against any reporter, producer or news outlet.
And don’t assume the media doesn’t care about your business or background. It does fear litigation if you have the ability to sue or ignite any underground campaign against the news agency. The rumor inside many newsrooms is that the legal team gets a larger bonus if the newsroom is not sued during the year, which is why you can bet every member of the legal team has an invested interest in making sure you are not slandered.
Politicians, small business owners, lawyers, CEOs, publicists, crisis managers, and business managers alike all have a financial and personal stake when the media starts asking questions. CEOs have lost jobs because of the way they managed their company’s public relations. Restaurant managers have been fired because they attempted to answer reporters’ questions involving health inspection reports. Politicians have resigned from offices after they misspoke in off-the cuff conversations. What you say matters when it reaches the masses, so make sure you have a solid crisis communications plan in place before the negative news strikes. A solid crisis communications plan is equivalent to your business and residential insurance.
Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.