You’ve struck gold. One of your organization’s products, people or initiatives grabbed the attention of a national media outlet. It’s a fleeting opportunity to convey your message to an audience of millions.
After the initial excitement fades, reality sets in: There’s a lot of work to do. You’ve cleared the first hurdle in a race that’s both long and fast. Your next steps are crucial in eventually securing favorable coverage.
We’ve been in this situation. Based on our experiences, here are some key public relations tips for orchestrating high-profile media opportunities:
Overestimate how long filming will take
When working with broadcast crews, getting the perfect shot almost always takes longer than expected. This is especially true if you’re filming on location and/or in public spaces where it’s difficult to control the environment. Audio is the biggest challenge in these situations. One stray noise can ruin an otherwise great shot, necessitating another costly take. One day with a film crew will forever change how you hear the world around you.
For sit-down interviews, be sure to schedule an hour beforehand to scout locations, prop up lighting equipment and set up cameras. Answering questions under lights and cameras is an entirely new sensation. Try to spend a few minutes sitting across from your spokesperson in the interview setting. This will help them adjust and become comfortable with the surroundings.
Reserve backup interview dates
The national news media are subject to the whims of breaking news. Developments of national magnitude, such as natural disasters, acts of mass violence and political scandals, can instantly disrupt the media agenda. If your story is the first priority for a mainstream media outlet today, there’s no guarantee the same will be true tomorrow.
It’s important to be flexible and understand that the more opportunities for access you can provide, the more journalists will appreciate you (and be able to cover your news). Anticipate unforeseen developments by reserving contingency dates. If the plan is to interview your CEO one week, hold some times the following week, too. And if you end up not needing the contingency date, you can use that time to sit down with the CEO and have a conversation about the value PR brings to your organization.
Pretend you’re the journalist
Mainstream media opportunities are high-stakes, stressful projects. You’ll probably notice your client or boss getting anxious about how the story will unfold and what the journalist will focus on. And as a professional communicator, you understand that the news media’s purpose is to produce interesting stories—not commercials about your client or company.
Cut this problem off at the pass by thinking like the journalist from the onset. Try to anticipate which elements of the story hold the most news value. If there’s a controversy, the journalist will pick up on it. Instead of shying away from potentially damaging topics, encourage your spokesperson along these lines: “We knew this issue was going to come up, and it’s completely fair. This is your chance to respond, share your view and deliver the counter-argument.”
Shining in the spotlight
Working with the national media takes experience, planning and the right strategy. It can offer your organization a unique chance to share your story and the work you’re doing with the world.
These tips recently helped our team work with The Wall Street Journal and NBC Nightly News on the segments below for RealNetworks.
This school is one of the first in the country to use facial recognition software out of concern for student safety.@RehemaEllis reports. pic.twitter.com/B1it0QR1Jy— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) October 7, 2018
Interested in learning more about how to earn national media attention and other public relations tips? Get in touch with us to start the conversation!
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