The recently concluded 7th Annual Corporate Communications – New Age Communications organized by marcus evans not only threw a spotlight on some of the industry’s biggest trends, but also highlighted important lessons for communications pros.
Since one of the core functions of corporate communicators is interacting with the media, several sessions focused on media relations and how an effective media strategy can pay huge dividends. During the key note address on the second day of the event, Pradipta Bagchi, Vice President, Corporate Communications at Tata Consultancy Services, highlighted seven concrete tips for communication professionals who have to interact with the media.
1) Never Ignore the Media – The golden rule, according to Mr. Bagchi, is that the media should never be ignored. As an ex journalist who had himself “crossed over into the dark side,” Mr. Bagchi opined that an understanding of how the media works is key. Trying to hide a negative story from the press will, in most cases, only make the problem worse. His advice: regardless of the problem or consequences, make sure to address the media immediately.
2) Play down sensationalism and rumors – One of the core tenants of interacting with the media is that the interaction should serve to be as mutually beneficial as possible. Especially in the context of a lightening quick media cycle – one that is only accelerated by the advent of social media – rumors and misinformation can spread fast. The communications pro should actively work to combat sensationalism and rumors with facts and reason – to control the debate in such a way that the press get better context.
3) The media is not the enemy – Yes, it can be frustrating interacting with some media people. And yes, it may sometimes seem like the media is out to get you and your brand. But communications professionals should make sure to convey within the organization – especially to prickly CEOs and Directors – that the media is not the enemy. They are, as Mr. Bagchi put it, “simply doing their job.”
4) CEOs, Keep Your Ego in Check – Several corporate communicators across the country get especially nervous when their CEO is set to interact with the press directly. Not all CEOs are naturally charismatic, but most of them tend to carry a slightly inflated ego fueled by the chair they occupy. This, when interacting with the media, can become a problem – there is nothing worse a CEO who gets angry, loses his focus, or escalates an argument with a journalist. Corporate Communications practitioners should be careful to media train their CEOs and all other media-facing executives on the importance of remaining calm and centered.
5) Positive Body Language – While much of the focus in terms of media interaction might be on what to say, one should also be mindful of their body language. After countless interviews and press conferences, journalists and instinctually trained to pick up on nervousness, anxiety, and apprehension. If the journalists pick up on your stuttering, excessive sweating, nervous body language etc., that may reflect how your brand is projected in the papers the next morning.
6) Give Perspective Immediately – Especially in times of crisis, Mr. Bagchi stressed the importance of acting in a timely manner with regard to press interactions. In the age of social media and rapid interactions, the old “we’ll analyze the situation and issue a release in the morning” approach is becoming extinct. Rumors need to be stopped as soon as possible; journalists will expect a comment almost instantly to stop the rumor mill spilling into the front page. The communications team under Mr. Bagchi at TCS is instructed to “never switch off their phones” – so that they are always available to provide context to the media.
7) Always Leave Them Wanting More – Mr. Bagchi’s final piece of advice was a strategy he has found useful in terms of sustaining media interest for the TCS brand – always leave the media hungry. Bombarding the media with lots of information at once may result in great short term coverage, but to convert this into sustained interest, it is important to leave them wanting more. A curious, hungry media is a good media for communications pros – and this will lead to coverage that spans a more organic and beneficial time-cycle.