Listen up now. I previously promised I would tell you about Golden Rule #2 when dealing with the media and introduce you to a lovely young lady named Tiffany and her colleague Brad.
So, Golden Rule #1 of dealing with the media was not avoiding the tough questions but seeking professional help from people who know what they are doing. (That means people like Sarah Morgan and I, in case the subtlety of my point was lost on you).
So now we come to Tiffany and Brad and Golden Rule #2, which many journalists would argue should be Golden Rule #1.
Picture this. You’re a hard-working journo, with one eye on a Pulitzer Prize and the other on meeting your deadline with a riveting yarn on a politician who refused to answer your questions.
With deadline just five minutes away, your phone rings.
Even as you’re lifting it to your ear, desperately hoping it’s the wayward politician begging for another chance, you know it’s probably a bad idea.
“Hello,” says what sounds like a 15-year-old girl. “It’s Tiffany (or Brad, depending on what day it is) from XYZ Public Relations. I just wanted to make sure you received the press release l sent you about the need to protect your home against drop bears this summer.”
“Uh, yeah, sure Tiffany/Brad. When did you send that?” you inquire as politely as possible because you know that Tiffany/Brad has feelings.
“Oh, about 30 seconds ago,” Tiffany/Brad replies as they stifle a giggle at the funny cat video someone just sent them on Facebook.
“Absolutely,” you lie.
“And do you think you might be able to use it at some stage?” Tiffany/Brad asks with the wide-eyed innocence I only vaguely remember ever having.
“I’ll certainly consider it,” you reply, even as your finger is hitting the delete button and you’re making a mental note to block Tiffany and Brad’s numbers on your phone.
I’m sorry if I sound like an old man but the PR world is full of Tiffanys and Brads.
I’m sure they are lovely young people who have studied hard to follow their journalistic dream and may one day have a million Instagram followers and the key to the executive bathrooms. But right now they are the most junior member of the XYZ Public Relations staff.
So the client – someone just like you – is paying money that should entitle them to the services of a senior member of staff … and they’re getting a Tiffany or a Brad instead.
It’s not Tiffany and Brad’s fault, it’s their bosses. And it shows how much they value the message you are trying to get across.
If Tiffany and Brad’s bosses did value your message, they wouldn’t leave it to their most junior staff members to deliver it.
They don’t seem to realise that corporate communications and public relations is all about connections.
Sending a press release to 37 journalists and then having the most junior members of staff call them to ask if they received it, is just plain annoying.
It’s also insulting to the journalists and the clients, not to mention poor old Tiffany.
Having connections in the media means being able to pick up the phone and call the right person at a newspaper, TV or radio station, knowing they will soon tell you if they are interested in a topic or not.
If you have a genuine connection, you can spend a few minutes chatting about the footy or how they spent New Year’s Eve. Believe it or not, journalists are real people too.
If they are interested (and if you know the business, you’ll have contacted someone who most likely will be) then you can work together to bring the story to life.
Notice that I said “work together”. Because the moment you give a journalist a feeling of ownership of a story, then you are a team working on a project rather than two separate tribes circling each other on the battleground of public relations.
So Golden Rule #2 is simple: Don’t hate the Tiffanys and Brads of the world – they are just doing their job. But ask yourself if you’re paying for something (or someone) you’re not getting.
When you deal with the communications team at The Vaxa Group, you get a free Damian Bathersby with every Sarah Morgan.
That’s right, you pay for a savvy media professional and get a free bloke with 40 year’s media experience.
And no Tiffanys or Brads!
Damian Bathersby is the newest addition to the communications team at Vaxa Group and brings with him more than 40 years of experience in the media throughout south-east Queensland and northern NSW. Prior to joining The Vaxa Group, Damian was Qld Deputy Editor of NewsLtd’s community newspaper operation, Quest Newspapers.