Media relations aren’t exactly the same as public relations, although the goals of each are similar. Public relations involve keeping the flow of information between your organization and the public on a manageable plane. Its aim is to convince the general public to have a positive view on what you do and produce.
Media relations, on the other hand, require that you deal with people who report or write for the mass media. In public relations, you have much more control on how your message is shaped, but you cannot control what reporters write or how they slant your message before it gets to the public.
On the positive side, good media relations can result in great coverage of your message or product without costing you a dime in advertising. Sometimes, however, you can lay your own land mines, which the media can explode.
Last year was filled with several egregious examples of extremely poor judgment and what happens when the media runs amok and drags your brand name, political campaign or nonprofit goals through the mud:
Playing chicken with family values
Chick-fil-A president Don Cathy thought he was in friendly territory when he told the Baptist Press that his company was “very much supportive of the family – the Biblical definition of the family unit.” When the mainstream press got wind of the comment, the chickens came home to roost.
The months of bad press Chick-Fil-A endured over that statement could not make up for the one day of long lines of their supporters. The sight of sign-toting chicken sandwich buyers supporting “family values” threw their branding message about 20 feet to the right of its market niche. Whatever the marketing image of chickens should be, family values somehow isn’t in the mix.
Mitt only opened his mouth to change feet
Those who think the press is biased (towards the left or right, depending on whom you ask) might have a difficult time proving the press was out to get Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. All the media had to do was report what he said.
Consider Romney’s statement “Corporations are people” in front of Iowans at their State Fair. Or his “binder full of women” misstatement during the debate. Then there was his loose-lipped remark consigning 47 percent of the voting population to the ranks of government-dependent victims. All of these instances affected his campaign efforts.
Breast Cancer foundation was shook to its own foundation
Someone at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure decided it was time to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services. The foundation got caught completely flatfooted in the firestorm of bad press and criticism that followed.
Unfortunately, the foundation waited a full day to release a tepid and ambiguous response. The fallout lasted months as executives resigned, supporters canceled events and fund raising plummeted.
The foregoing examples probably best illustrate how an ounce of discretion is worth a pound of denial and cleanup. Even the best media relations cannot overcome politicizing a chicken sandwich or schmoozing with rich contributors and hearing it all over the airwaves the next day. Nor can good media relations camouflage anti-abortion agendas overriding commonsense support of a women’s health provider. They do, however, demonstrate how bad press can make a bad situation horrible.
Looking for an online media kit with targets to unfilter your image and message? We can get you organized and do everything you need to coordinate your public relations and media goals. Contact us and tap into our experience and expertise to keep your media goals on the straight and narrow.
We also welcome your comments and input. Can you share your own media relations horror tales?