Handling the Media

by Jennifer Stenhouse

Introduction

There’s such a proliferation of communication forms in the world today that the media touches all our lives in one way or another. We all look to the media for information, whether it’s in a magazine or newspaper, on the web or on TV and radio.

Today, Andy Warhol’s concept of 15 minutes of fame is an increasing possibility for everyone. The explosion of TV and radio channels means that ordinary people are getting the chance like never before to taste the media spotlight, and every business, big or small, can find itself engaging with the media – willingly or otherwise.

We’re in love with the influence of power, when we should be in love with the power of influence.

Michael Grinder

However, it’s a mistake to assume that speaking to a journalist or appearing on TV or radio is like having a chat with a friend in a pub, only more public. The communication can be distorted – not deliberately, but in a number of ways inherent in whichever channel is being used. For example:

  • TV adds ten pounds to your body weight and can subtly change the way you look
  • If you’re not appearing live on radio or TV, your interview can be chopped up and used as the journalist sees fit
  • In print, your words are fitted into a story in a way over which you have no control...

...or have you?

Here’s how to embrace the media and get exactly what you want to say across, through the interface of both journalist and technology.

There’s no mystique. You don’t even have to wear a dinner jacket on air these days. You do, however, have to understand and follow some ground rules for success.

We’ve all heard stories of people being stitched up by our tabloid press, but the actual experience for most of us is far more mundane. The reality is that, increasingly, ever more column inches and airtime has to be filled with something – hopefully something interesting. So if you have something to say, it might as well be you filling that space.

Dealing with the media is not a science, so you can never predict the outcome with certainty. But with careful preparation and by taking responsibility for what you communicate, you can greatly improve your chances of success.

Why would you do it?

Think of this in terms of marketing potential. Engaging with the media is one of the cheapest ways of getting your message across to the greatest number of people.

Advantages:

  • It’s an opportunity for free advertising
  • It’s an opportunity to get an important message across
  • It gives you credibility
  • You can put the record straight
  • You can end rumours
  • You may become a regular interviewee or pundit and so raise your or your organisation’s profile.

With appropriate consideration and preparation, you can mostly avoid the negatives everyone tends to fear, such as the interview that backfires or misrepresentation.