I spent several years working as a reporter for wire services and daily newspapers and tend to be sensitive to reporters’ needs and wants as they are pursuing a story.
Often, creating a media or “standby” statement is standard operating procedure when media inquiries are expected. The rationale being that preparing a statement gives spokespeople and organizations the opportunity to make sure that the information the media receives is factually accurate and reflects the organization’s position on the issue at hand in a transparent and credible way.
While media statements certainly deliver important information, there is something else reporters seek that some media relations professionals are failing–at least in the media’s eyes–to deliver: Access.
Periodically, I’ll touch base with my reporter pals to see how they feel about the role of media relations people and how they help (or hinder) their efforts to pursue stories.
More and more I’m hearing “access” come up when reporters are lamenting their difficulties in pursuing a story.
The media’s desire for more access, of course, puts more pressure on those of us charged with preparing spokespeople for interviews. The less savvy and less prepared the spokesperson is, the less likely organizations are to put them in a room with the news media. And, after all, the media statement is a simple and easy fallback position.
While I certainly don’t expect, or endorse, the end of prepared statements as a media relations tool, I feel it is important for all of us to keep in mind opportunities that may be missed by issuing a statement rather than participating in a live interview.
The latter option comes with risk, but it is incumbent upon those of us offering media relations counsel to at least consider the opportunities that exist before issuing a statement. The payoff can be substantial.