Rob McMahon, ABC

Look Before You Leap

There was a really good article on Ragan's PR Daily about being service oriented with reporters when engaging in reactive media relations, When a reporter says ‘jump,’ ask how high. While I agree with needing a sense of urgency and being responsive to requests, you need to ensure that before you jump for a reporter, you look where you are jumping.

If you work in media relations reporters are indeed an important public, but as communicators we are more than just order-takers. In addition to promoting the brands of our organizations or clients, we are equally charged with protecting them. Where we add value is in reviewing each request strategically and providing advice and options to our internal clients. While a media request may seem benign, there may be unseen risks for your organization.

Once when I was working at one of Canada's top hospitals, I received a call from a national health reporter looking for comment on a country-wide shortage of a specific drug. While I had experts in the particular specialty affected that could speak to the impact on patients and others in our pharmacy who could speak to problems in the drug supply chain generally, I did not feel it was appropriate for us to comment. As this was a national issue, I did not want to the hospital I worked for to be seen as owning the issue. There were much more appropriate organizations that were better placed to respond. Unfortunately, some that do not respond in the 10-20 minutes that I would recommend. I also armed myself with information on how our hospital was being affected, luckily it was not. I pitched my approach with the leaders of the hospital, and was able to get buy-in.

Ahead of calling the reporter back, I prepared a script and rehearsed it a couple of times. When I got her on the phone she was not happy that we would not comment and tried several times and different ways to get me to deviate from the script. I stood my ground and she eventually relented, laughed and said, "okay, I'll get you next time, Rob." Although I wasn't able to provide what she wanted that day, we continued to work very well together until I changed industries.

Creative Commons image by thriol.

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