In media a lot of us live with a feeling of self importance and self superiority. Also we are taught to question everything. In TV, the feeling is more amplified by the visibility that the medium offers to the journalist. So dear PR friends, your job is tough. You are trying to communicate to the mass communicators. Unfortunately most of you I interact with are only adding to you problems
I am not counting the Dos and Don’ts, but let me jot down a few issues that I encounter in my interactions with PR professionals:
DON’T meet a media person or call him without a proper brief about your client and why you made a call to him. Many do that. If you don’t know what your job is, don’t expect a media person to help you.
DON’T ever call a journalist/editor and ask him to drop a story. There are better ways to reach your goal. Ask for time to respond if they haven’t. Explain your side of the story. If you try to stop a story, it gives a sense that you have more to hide. On many occasions, the big PR giants (including the one which collapsed under the weight of lobbying charges) have called me to drop stories. If there is merit most journalists and organisations are willing to hear and reflect your point of view.
DON’T call up journalists to say that the owner of the company who has hired you will take you to task if the story goes on air. You will have to learn to convince your clients that PR cannot stop all negative stories. If facts are not on your side, then try to defend.
DON’T try to ever link the sales and marketing exposures your client has on the channel to the stories we do. Some PR friends try to drop hints. You can argue that it works sometimes. That is rare and is increasingly even rarer.
DON’T call ten times to remind us of an event we have to cover. If it is newsy, we will cover it. If it’s interesting, we will try to cover it. News channels have little space for PR stuff except maybe in entertainment. In India there is never a dull moment. So fillers wont work in TV as much they can work in print.
DO always react to queries from journalists. Say only what you can’t say. Silence is counter productive. Do communicate. Do engage. Giving your side of the story/explaining your position will always help you on a bad news day.
DO understand how TV works. It has a deadline every hour. It is not like print where reactions/response can come by evening. TV needs reactions then and there.
DO reinforce more credibility in PR by educating yourselves. If you speak like a tele marketing person, you will be treated like that. Most PR calls I switch off and talk, as the other end doesn’t make sense to me.
Let me take one example without taking names. When India’s most beloved brand was under attack in the telecom scam and a lobbying mess, many seniors met us and asked, "Are we so bad? Definitely NO. Haven’t we given back to society like no one else has? Yes, absolutely. But why are we under fire from the media?"
Let me quote the judge who sentenced Rajat Gupta recently; “History of the world is full of stories of good men who do bad things”. No one is immune from bad press if you have done something wrong or even if there is a perception that you have done something wrong. Verdicts are for the courts to pronounce. In the media all that you battle is perception. Your image and perception will stand you in good stead. Rajat Gupta got only two years when the usual sentence for insider trading is eight to ten years. But as Rajat Gupta himself says, he has lost reputation.
Reputation is difficult to find and easy to lose.
R. Radhakrishnan Nair is Executive Editor, CNN IBN