PR Peeps: Don’t Bully the Media at an Event

If you are the media contact for a big event, you may think it’s your job to walk the reporter through the story, and tell them step-by-step how they should cover it.  After all, it’s your job to get the best coverage possible for your event, right?

Wrong.

In fact, the worst thing you could possibly do is turn control-freak on the media.

When I was a reporter, I remember covering an event hosted by a hospital about fifteen years ago.  To this day, it still sticks with me.  As soon as I entered the room, the PR person hijacked me.  She introduced me to about five different people, and told me I needed to interview all of them.  I explained to her that I didn’t have that kind of time, and I only needed two interviews for this type of feature story.  (Actually, one would have sufficed because it wasn’t hard news.)

“Well, here’s the thing Denise. If you only interview this doctor, then the other doctor will get upset.  You know how doctors are!” she joked.  “Oh, and you also really need to interview the Chief-of-Staff, as well as the head of the department.  Oh, and I have two patients who want to be interviewed as well.” (I am paraphrasing, but it went something like that).

Sigh.

So the interviews began, and as soon as I finished with one, the PR Nazi would bring another one right to me.  My photographer and I exchanged looks and he just shook his head.  He was the chief photographer, and this wasn’t his first rodeo.  (He later gave me a big lecture on the art of saying “no.”)

I should have put a stop to it.  But it was easier to just do what she asked instead of arguing with her (I’ve always been a pushover).  Too bad for her (and me) because it was all a waste of time.  I only used one interview, and I tried my best to avoid this PR person in the future.

As a communication professional, your job is to HELP the media.  Not make things more difficult.  The reporter covering your event is most likely given multiple assignments and always on stand-by for breaking news.  So your big news event on new furniture donated to the pediatric wing of the hospital isn’t really high priority news.  In fact, you are lucky to get a mention.

Two weeks ago, I was the media lead for a Bat Blitz in Birmingham, Alabama.  Multiple sponsors were responsible for putting this together.  But I knew there was no way all of them could get interviewed.  So our media planning group picked two subject-matter experts to be available to the media.  Not FORCED onto the media.  Just available.  There is a big difference.

After introducing the media to the subject-matter experts, I got the heck out of the way.  I stayed in the room in case any of them needed me.  But I didn’t hover or stalk, and I couldn’t have been happier with the coverage.

Points to remember?

  • Don’t stalk the media.
  • Your event isn’t the only news of the day.  Recognize where you fall in the pecking order.
  • Introduce subject-matter experts to the media, but let them decide who they interview.
  • Be available, but stay out of their way.

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