This is the fifth in a series of blogs about what media training trainees think when they come to a session. We talk here about greeting journalists when they come calling.
While it should be a welcome contact at most times, a telephone call or even a walk-in visit by a journalist causes dread in the hearts and minds of many business and government execs along with a legion of receptionists and other contact point persons out there. If one knows how to greet the journalist, a lot of that dread can fade, replaced by a tolerable and even productive exchange of ideas.
One job of PR pros is to avoid having reporters calling or walking in on ordinary people in the office or other places of work. They do this by keeping in touch with beat reporters, letting them know the PR person is the best (the ‘only’) one to contact if the reporter has questions. Reporters, of course, run around the PR people all the time – the expression ‘herding cats’ comes to mind. No one can guarantee journalists won’t call or come in, cameras clicking or rolling.
Case in point: a reporter and camera crew from a local TV affiliate in Winnipeg marched into the office of a government health department shortly after the government announced an anti-smoking program. The camera operator caught most of the health department staff smoking like chimneys at their desks.
Another case: a reporter asked a just-promoted manager of a local gas company to show off his first pay cheque from a spin-off division of the firm. Smiling broadly, he posed with the cheque for the newspaper’s photographer. When the photo was published, front page, it ran with a cutline noting that, while he got a new job and a big raise, 60% of the company’s call centre staff had been laid off due to the company split. Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
Many contacts with media have resulted in very positive coverage for the companies or other organizations and for the spokespersons.
But, obviously, it pays to greet each journalist with caution – anticipating or finding the purpose of the contact before you start telling your story. Good media training tells you how to greet journalists.