Tuesday, 17 August 2010

PR And Media Attention. How To Deal With A Journalist.

When a Government Department or business large or small come under the media spotlight, the PR Department of said organisation becomes the focal point of the journalist or media team covering the story. You would expect the PR team to be on the ball with what it is we do and how we go about producing our story, but this is not always the case.

Let me explain by saying a bit about the pressures journalists are under. From the first alarm call on a big story, it's a straight forward race. It's a race to be first with the news, and it's a race to get reporters and camera crews on site while the incident is still going on, whilst there are witnesses to interview. The BBC, ITN and SKY, PA News and all the radio stations compete head on. On top of that, on a really big important story, you may have the UK bureaux of the entire international press corps to deal with.

BBC and Sky News compete head on...... Literally.
Working with the BBC, there are so many outlets on TV and radio, that you can be broadcasting incessantly. If you are first on the scene of a major story, everybody wants you ... now. Five Live, 24 Hour News channel, Local radio, and the pre planned news bulletins. Schedules will have been dropped, and a reporter will be broadcasting pretty much continuously. Like the PR team, news outlets have well rehearsed plans which swing quickly into place on big news events.

The reporter by this stage will be in concentration and on edge. He or She may be standing there with not a lot of information trying to describe the story, with people barking instructions through the earpiece. Maybe they are relaying information, giving a count to the second he has to stop talking. The pressure on the TV journalist to deliver the goods will be immense, and he is going to turn to the PR Team of the subject in hand for information that sometimes even they, are unable to give.

BBC News team at work.
This is where an expeienced PR Officer is worth his or her weight in gold. If they can help out with the facts, interviewees and pictures, the journalist is going to remember, and look favourably towards them in the future. The journalist wants to hear from people at the coal face, the acknowledged experts. Because that is what the audience research indicates the people who watch the news want to hear from. Not the managing director or the marketing guru.

People like to see themselves responsively portrayed on television. They like to see something that enhances their self esteem and their public image. Although they might not get things right all of the time, and may not trot out the official line in quite the way the story is to be told, journalist like to hear from them, and people like them. The people involved at the grass roots level of a story are the people that the journalists, and the viewing public, want to hear from. And that is a very valuable impression to give, if you find yourself at the centre of the next media storm.