Tag Archives: news

Overcoming the risk in getting your media release published optimally.

I’ve been teaching ‘writing for the media’ for many years, giving guidelines and tips to journalists and PR writers. And yet, I fell prey to one of the most common traps……..
I recently wanted to publicise an important activity within my own organisation and, as I have a good relationship with the local media, I approached a particular and highly competent business editor with my media release. He asked me to send in my CV as well to see if he could turn it into an interesting article. This I did. He used the information to write a very good piece and duly sent me a draft for checking before submitting. I was happy, returned it and he submitted it.

However, when it appeared, we noticed that a ‘sub’ had omitted the most important and recent information and retained items less important and newsworthy. Hence, the result was not the one I had hoped for. Getting a media release published was one thing, getting the desired outcome was another. So, in evaluating that PR exercise, I’m reviewing important aspects of writing a media release and getting it published – to your satisfaction.

The MOST important thing is, DO NOT submit any information you do not want used! Sending in my CV was my mistake. By doing so, I gave the editor the power to select additional information that he thought would make a useful or interesting article. And then in the subbing process the original important information was omitted. Hence, “there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip” so ensure you only send what needs to be made known for your purposes.

Other tips to remember:
Tip 1: Create stories. The link to the media is newsworthiness – send only items that you think the audience would find newsy and interesting. Reporters and audiences like quotes. They add authenticity and immediacy to the story or piece. So give them a few – even quote yourself!
Tip 2: Timing your media release. And link to other news and events. Keep abreast of what’s going on in the news so that you can tap into what’s happening and create synergies with other events, special days and organisations.
Tip 3: Be organised and correct. Use a method like the 5Ws and 1 H for your media release to ensure the important information is included. Only add extra info if space permits. Write in the third person, not the first (we not I) – to meet the journalistic criterion of ‘objectivity’. And always proofread to be free of typos.
Tip 4: Essential inclusions – Source of info with contact details; date; a catchy headline; and a picture helps.
Tip 5: Tweak your press release according to the different media you use to suit the various audiences and to create ‘synergies’ (Tip 2). Come up with a number of creative angles for each story and submit the timeliest and most appropriate ones.

Keep writing, keep contact with the media and keep submitting your stories!

Maharaj – the gatekeeper and spin doctor at the hospital gates

What do you think of Mac Maharaj’s handling of the Mandela crisis situation?
How does his PR style contribute to brand Mandela and the public’s perceptions?
Maharaj lashed out at the media for broadcasting unverified information about the state of Madiba’s health. A member of the Mandela family accused the media of being overly-intrusive, “vulture-like”, preying on the ailing old man. They speak as though this is an average suburban 94 year old man, needing privacy as he nears his end while his traumatized family start mourning and feuding. Many citizens also believe the media should “leave Mandela alone”. But is that possible – given the man’s global position as an iconic statesman and a symbol of freedom, democracy and human rights? And given that, for the past 3 decades. the government has been ‘selling’ Mandela to the world as the one true embodiment of a perfect South Africa, the Rainbow nation – he has become a brand! He left behind any notion of being a private individual when he chose to represent the ANC and the people in the struggle for freedom and democracy until his death. He is ours and the world’s.

Apart from the issues of media ethics and privacy vs public interest, we should also take a look at what the role of a spokesman is in terms of public relations and government relations. It is quite clear from this that in government communication – and this is government communication – relationships between politicians, media professionals and the public impact the quality of democracy. And this needs to be interrogated.
According to most Public and Government Relations theorists and practitioners, the task of government communication is not about “pleasing customers”, but informing tax-paying citizens. And in times of crisis PR people have to be particularly ready to inform the public to avoid any misconceptions, rumours and unverified information circulating.

In this unique case, being Mandela’s private spokesperson involves also being a government spokesperson because of the nature of the ANC/Mandela relationship. So why does Mac Maharaj “shield Madiba” by conducting press conferences at his own convenience, subtly distorting or hiding information or not disclosing the true facts of the situation? His task is to turn the speculation into facts by his visibility and ability to share information – good or bad – with the nation. However, because of the choice and tone of his disclosures and expositions he may be accused of exacerbating exclusion and division, instead of drawing citizens together at this pivotal point in our democracy. The question then becomes, is he being a good spokesman for Mandela and/or the ANC government?

Now, make no mistake, everybody loves Nelson Mandela and everything he stands for but they resent the way that those around him choose to change their stance on his relationship with the media to suit their own agendas. What was the idea behind propping him up for the cameras surrounded by the ANC cronies when the word was spreading globally that Mandela would be horrified by the state of the ANC today. That was their last chance for a photo opportunity to insinuate that he approved their actions, when in fact he was so ill, he would have sat with any group had it had access to him! Who did this caper please – citizens or ANC customers? I recall there was a major public outcry by concerned citizens.

What do you think of Maharaj’s handling of the Mandela situation????