Working with the Media: A Guide for Volunteer Organizations and Commissions

When defense is necessary, however, silence is not the best tactic. Silence may be golden, but it will not change the opinion of the public or leaders, and it may confirm a negative perception in the minds of many. Prompt and honest admission of a problem or mistake is often the most successful action. If your public relations effort involves defending your organization or dealing with a conflict, don’t react too hastily or without careful thought. Do your homework to gather all important information. Visualize how your response will look in print or on air and think about the reaction that it will cause. This type of preparation will provide dividends in how you are perceived and treated.

Rules for Working With the Media

The media can be a powerful tool in public relations. Good public relations includes a process of building good relations with local reporters and editors through persuasive, honest communication and education.

Many municipal commissions and volunteer organizations are unrealistic in their understanding of and dealings with the media. It’s not enough to convince the media that an issue or program is valuable or noble—you must convince them that it is news-worthy. Some commissions and organizations receive good and frequent publicity because they are able to give the media good reasons to cover them.

The media are often faulted for not picking up a potential story, but this may happen because the person or group supplying the story did not understand the rules of the media game.

Good media relations are built on communications, trust, and cooperation. A newspaper editor or television news director will look more favorably upon commissions and organizations they are familiar with and know are easy to deal with. Cultivate your relationships with the media.

The more familiar and comfortable reporters and editors become with you and your organization, the more likely they will be to publish stories about your work. Remember to maintain your good rapport with people in the media, even when you’re not actively promoting an event or issue. In short, become their “source” for interesting and reliable information.

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