Building Positive Relationships

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Building Positive Relationships

While much may be said about the art and craft of preparing materials for media consumption, perhaps nothing is so important to successful publicity as the relationships established between public relations practitioners arid journalists. When public relations practitioners take the time and make the effort to establish good personal relations with journalists, they are much more likely to attract positive news coverage for their organizations. Good public relations begin with good personal relations.

Tips for Getting Along with Journalists

As in all walks of life, it is good for public relations practitioners to get to know the people they work with. Sometimes the direct approach is effective. Call a journalist with whom you know you will be working. Introduce yourself. Suggest lunch or a drink. Another approach is to hand-deliver a news release to provide an opportunity for a brief introduction and meeting. Some journalists appreciate the effort. Says one: "I like to meet new PR-types just to see who they arc. I like to tell them what I want and don't want." Other journalists, however, would rather not be bothered. With them, an indirect approach is required. Belonging to the local press club, attending meetings of Sigma Delta Chi (a professional journalism fraternity), or becoming involved in community activities in which journalists are also involved, are ways of getting to know media counterparts. Indeed, journalists are often hired for publicity jobs not only for their writing skills but also for their network of media contacts. Once relationships are established, protect and cherish them. Do not squander valuable relationships by using them for small favors or one-shot story placements. Do not ruin a relationship by expecting a reporter to always do what you want. Take no for an answer. Do not insult your relationship with inappropriate gifts-journalists are sensitive to even the appearance of conflicts of interest. Cultivate your relationships with journalistic colleagues by giving good service. Provide sufficient and timely information, stories, and pictures, when and how they ,are wanted. Be on call twenty-four hours a day to respond to reporters needs and questions. Nothing will destroy a relationship faster or more completely than an affront to the truth. Accuracy, integrity, openness, and completeness are the basis for trust bestowed by journalists. Once trust is broken, it can rarely be regained. Finally, to assure good relations with journalists, the practitioner should behave in a professional way. Live up to expectations. Do not play favorites among the media. Do not beg for favors, special coverage, or removal of unfavorable publicity.

2. Say whether h is right or wrong and what is your opinion on the following:

1. Journalists never view public relations practitioners as people who make their livings by using the media to their own advantage.

2. The same research indicated that journalists perceived public relations practitioners to be very different, even opposite to themselves, in terms of their value orientation toward news.

3. Public relations practitioners are boundary spanners.

4. What are the tips for getting along with journalists?

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With a basic understanding of the complex relationships between pub& relations practitioners and journalists, we can outline a few general principles for working with the media. In the first piece, managers must reconcile them-selves to the -legitimacy of the media's role in monitoring the pedant-met of, their organizations and leaders. Managers and institutions must understand and `institutions the unique position of the media, realizing that, on one level, an grove adversarial relationship is normal. The best advice in dealing with the media is-to give journalists what they want in the form and language they want. Respond quickly and honestly. to media requests for information. By working to establish a relationship Of mutual - trust with particular journalists, you can defuse many potentially antagonistic encounters.

Preparing to Meet the Media

Consider the following situations:

You are the chief public relations official for a major company; A reporter calls your office at 9 A.M. She wants to see you for an interview at 11 A.M. She wants your company to respond to allegations made by a source that she is not at liberty to disclose. All she will say is that the charges deal with corporate finances and questionable conduct of certain corporate officials. As the public relations director of a major private university, you decide to hold a press conference to announce the initiation of an important fund-raising effort. A prominent alumnus has donated $5 million to kick off the campaign. You know that recent media coverage has criticized the university's budgetary problems, tuition hikes, and incursions into neighborhoods around the school that displaced poor people and eroded the community tax base. You are the community relations' director of the local police force. A reporter calls to request a meeting with your chief about low police morale resulting from the city's inability to meet rank-and-file demands for pay rises. When you attempt to arrange an interview for the following afternoon, the chief berates you, saying: "It's your job to keep the press off my back. Why can't you handle the guy's questions?" You convince the chief that the reporter would not talk to you because he said he was tired of the chief hiding behind his "flack." You tell him departmental integrity and morale depends on his willingness to deal with the press. You promise to help him prepare. He reluctantly agrees to the interview.

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