How to... build a connection with the media
The media is a powerful channel to get an organisation's message across, but damage can also be done if it is not handled properly. Scott Bowers, group director of communications for The Jockey Club, shares his views on how to work with the media effectively.
Tip 1: Recognise the importance of the media
Investing time and resources in a professional approach to media communications has never been more important in this 24-seven multimedia age.
"Every organisation needs a high-performing communications strategy, well-resourced programmes that deliver and a clear internal policy for all employees to buy into," Bowers says. "Those who are figureheads in an organisation need to make time in their busy schedules to grab opportunities to help tell your story and in difficult times stand up and show leadership to build confidence that the ship is in good hands."
Tip 2: Know your role
Organisations designate spokespeople for a reason because every word matters when speaking to the media.
"You wouldn’t make a tennis coach responsible for accounting in a multi-million pound business," Bowers says. "The same is true for those speaking to media, because the value of reputation can be worth just as much. If you're not a prepared spokesperson, don't overstep your brief!"
Tip 3: Build relationships
Good relationships with journalists are developed over time, not simply over lunch.
"Journalists are looking for exclusive access and content, a regular and timely feed of news and a swift response when they want something from you," Bowers says. "They also expect you to appreciate one size does not fit all in media communications. If you're proactive with good ideas that fit the medium and audience they work with, you'll quickly build connections that will carry your message far and wide."
Tip 4: The power of understatement
Never knowingly oversell to a journalist.
Bowers says: "The worst thing to do is turn into a car salesman when speaking to the media. Journalists will instantly turn off, like most people would, so tone down the sales pitch. Never overstate or embellish as you'll be found out quickly. Instead be passionate about what you're saying and why it's important, using hard facts to back it up."
Tip 5: Get some training
Not every executive is a natural in front of a camera or even in an informal chat with a journalist.
"England cricketers practise their game for hours before a Test series; a spokesperson having media training so they can wow their audience is just the same," says Bowers. "I use former journalists for media training assignments as I find them to be the best. Executives who are being trained buy into their advice more readily."
Top Tip: Be aware of the golden rules
"Be proactive, create a demand for more and remember you’re always on the record!"