Not all bad news

A recurring theme across my years in public relations has been the complaint that ‘the media never want to write anything good about us’. This is usually followed up by mutterings that all they are interested in is negative news.

When you enquire a bit more, you usually find the complainer has made little or no effort to get their good news to the media. The attitude seems to be that, ‘because I believe they are focussed on negative news, I will keep my head down and try to maintain a low profile’.

But, if you stop and scan the stories on a business page or a business publication there are a lot of very positive stories out there. Your opposition may be raising their profile with good news while you are hiding yours.

Over the years I have found that, contrary to this popular perception, business journalists are enthusiastic about positive news – particularly now when the economy is emerging from a long and painful recession. Business journalists are keen to present stories that indicate growth, positive jobs news, new developments and new markets.

good news

I also hear people rationalise their reticence about media coverage by saying they cannot see the benefit of their business being in the news.

In an era when we are bombarded with messages on all fronts, that seems particularly short sighted. Now, more than ever, you want people to know and understand your business. This is not just for commercial reasons, it is also beneficial if people who may influence your success have good perceptions about your business.

Imagine, for example, a planning meeting that is considering an extension to your premises. If the councillors deciding your application have no knowledge of your business they could be less inclined to feel positive than if they have a perception of a growing business that is contributing strongly to the economy.

If collaboration, or acquisition, feature on your business plan, it pays to have a strong business profile. Over the years I have lost a number of clients because our public relations work for them contributed to presenting them as a good takeover targets!

So, if you are not actively keeping the media informed about your business, maybe now is the time to start. How should you go about it?

As with most things it is best to approach any aspect of your corporate communications in a planned and strategic manner. But, these are some pointers that may help you along the way.

  • Don’t try to say too much. This is the most common error I have come across when a business starts issuing news – suddenly all these pent-up news stories are crammed into one announcement. Keep it simple and, if you really have lots of news, issue it in a series of news releases, rather than one omnibus edition!
  • What you believe to be news may not be news to an external audience. Some years ago there was a frenzy of businesses trying to get coverage on their achievement of the latest ISO standard. This is big news within the business because it is the culmination of a huge effort. But, in news terms it became such a cliché that I remember one business desk putting a total embargo on such announcements.
  • Develop a ‘news sense’ (or hire an expert to provide it). Read and analyse the stories that make the news. What is it that makes them news? Understanding this will help you present your story in the most newsworthy manner.
  • Make sure what you send is relevant and timely. Sending out an announcement, or photographs, of an event that happened last week, is of no use to a daily paper – nothing is as dead as old news.
  • Get known for being open and responsive to the media. If you build a reputation for providing the right comment at the right time, then your profile and the profile of your business will benefit.
  • Finally, just in case there is a negative story that will rise up and bite you, make sure you have a crisis plan in place to respond.

blog comments powered by Disqus
© 2009-18 Ken McEwen Public Relations. All rights resererved. Contact