The Relations with Mass Media
In the relations with Mass Media (as well as with the public) the institutions of Public Administration haven’t got rid yet of the “estate secret” syndrome. We have a law of public information – well written in my opinion – there are specialized departments of Public Relations, which were set up exactly due to this law, but Public Relations do not effectively function.
I will not discuss about here the professionalism (which includes, of course, objectivity, ethics and responsibility towards society) of Mass Media in Romania – maybe in another paper – but about the fact that the relations between public (directly and by mass media) and Public Administration are not how they should be mainly because of the attitudes from Public Administration.
Journalists are perceived as “enemies”, they are dreaded, people stay away from them (maybe they are right sometimes, but it’s still irrelevant) – but nobody thinks of seeing the circumstances of being in the newspaper as an opportunity with many sides.
Official statements to the press – an important part of the relations with mass media – are made tepid, edited and distributed “by ear” and at each institution in a different way – not an earthly about creativity or an open-minded language. Joseph Pulitzer gives a simple receipt for an efficient communication. The message to the public should be:
- short – so that the public reads it;
- clear – so that the public appreciates it;
- picturesque – to remind it but more than anything
- precise – so that the public is guided by its light.
Having to do with the media is a torture for some people, especially for those inexperienced and those who have a lot to lose; what should be perceived as an opportunity is seen as a harmful try. Showing up on a national / local channel of the radio or TV could seem a threat for your personality, your job, your things and your own feeling of controlling.
I don’t think there should be intimidation towards technology. Journalism and media continue to depend crucially on what they always depended on: not machines but human beings who are ready to speak, normal people – especially if they are capable of speaking with the media, with ability and in their favour.
Any journalist, who contacts you, no matter how, wants a story, an article and he is determined to get one. You can’t control this. But you have a kind of control or you can influence him with your way of telling the story.
From my point of view there are two kinds of news: the ones you want to see published and the ones you would prefer not to see published. But journalism doesn’t make this kind of distinction; it is only interested in the VALUE of the news.
As individuals, journalists are different, as the other people are: some are non-moral, others – scrupulous, stupid or very intelligent, rude or sensitive, careless or careful, narrow-minded or open-minded, with a rigorous perception of reality or with a foggy one.
One of the most irritating things that may happen to a journalist is when the contact person doesn’t bother to give him all the information and then complain that the reportage is not exact or is not adequate. It is always better to offer something than not to offer anything. Better you will understand the professional needs of the journalist, his personal identity and the constraints he must work with, better the results will be.
The easiest manner of interacting with the media is by treating journalists the same way you would like to be treated. In order to do this, you should imagine you are journalists. If you think journalism is an interesting and professional job, which is worth doing, then you will have no problem.
Obviously the target is building a good reputation in front of the public, but the starting point should be building a good reputation in front of the media. There should be gained the respect for the speed and efficiency of the approach, the integrity of information, the honesty in answering to questions, the access you allow to facilities and the personal and, more than anything, for the equal “vigor” with which you announce good and bad news.
Journalists are people. They are moved and motivated by the same things as we are. They answer in a positive manner if they are treated the same; they like to be treated with consideration and they don’t expect less.
Many organizations find themselves in trouble for trying to concentrate on those things they consider important and interesting. Do they forget about – or they don’t even take into consideration – what could be interesting for a journalist? What is he interested in? What is the public for which he writes interested in?
Trying to create good news when the organization wants it is a poor attempt. A wiser attitude would be making Public Relations a continuous, permanent strategic part of management. In other words, the organization should make real efforts to build relationships with the key audiences (including with the agents like the media and the analysts) that encourage them to speak what they know about the organization’s actions and to see it as an authority and a source of useful information. Thus not only that respect is gained but any bad news will seem better when you will obviously try harder to help than to hide.
By Raluca Filip