By Betty Abang

In my time in PR, I have observed an aversion for the media and media persons by some top level executives. Perhaps false media representations, distortion, and outright falsehoods which have been the experience of some of these executives have led to the entrenching of this feeling.

In spite of this, for as long as the media remain agenda setters and opinion influencers in the society, a company that neglects or boycotts the media is courts trouble and does so at its own peril. This is because by being evasive, the organisation encourages rumors and other such representations that may not be in its interest, especially as rumors or speculations left to run wild is capable of causing even greater damage.

To avert this, organizations should adopt a more proactive approach to dealing with the media.

First and foremost, recognize that the media are always looking for veritable sources of news and authority figures that they can make attributions to. Therefore, every organization should have in advance an official spokesperson. This is the go-to person for news, facts and clarification when the need arises. This person should be a member of the decision making process, so that there is no delay in obtaining approval before information gets out; taking cognizance of the time bound nature of the media. The spokesperson should be one schooled and well grounded in the values and ethos of the organization so as to be able to speak authoritatively about issues that may arise.

Second, take the offensive approach. Decide and prepare in advance your key messages and positioning on different issues affecting your industry. Also, provide relevant and timely information about your organization to the media. These need not always be marketing stories; it should also contain accounts based on facts. This is the place to highlight organization impact, from society’s perspective; as well as innovations and breakthroughs.

It is also important to note that dealing honestly will always produce goodwill in the long run. An organization who thinks that by hoodwinking the media they will be able to conceal negative happenings, hurts itself in the long run by loosing trust and credibility. Once trust and credibility is lost you open your organization up for disparagement. The ever changing complexity of business relations allows that there will be disaffections at one time or the other, but rather than lie about issues, it is best to suffer initial criticism. Besides, honesty will always create sympathy.

Furthermore, experience has shown that an organization that pursues this proactive approach has actively taken charge of its communication and is well positioned to handle any potential negative representation.

However, if by any chance, after the above measures have been taken, inaccuracies, distortions or falsehoods are published, there are given means which they can be countered.

But this would rarely happen, especially when the organization has built favorable media relations over time. As much as the media thrives on controversy, an organization that is perceived to be helpful in providing timely and helpful information will usually enjoy more favorable representation.