A Lakeland Rotary club invited me to speak to them about public relations recently, and I got a great question at the end of the meeting: what do you do when it seems like media outlets only report unfavorable news about your business/organization?
Having been a reporter prior to working in public relations, I can say this often is a perception issue. No one wants negative news about them reported in the media, so it can feel like you’ve been targeted when it happens. Most journalists work to be objective, but good or bad, they go where the news is. Sometimes you’re simply going to get the sharp end of the media stick.
With that said, let’s address a glaring reality: bad news travels like lightning, while good news often progresses at snail speed. If I have a client who has been sued, arrested or fired, I don’t have to tell a single media outlet – not that I’d want to. There are people clamoring to the media about that juicy tidbit. Give me a client who’s doing something truly unique, incredible and amazing and I’ll tell you it’s going to take considerably more effort to get coverage, only because I’ll likely be the only one sharing that information with the media.
To answer the question, you have to stand your ground, and sometimes fight back. Let’s say you’re in a line of work that has environmental reporters breathing down your neck occasionally, just waiting to catch you messing up. When you know a story is coming, offer to be quoted so your side is represented. Make yourself available for fact-checking before the story is published. If they report inaccurately, say so. Ask them to make it right. Write a post on your site’s blog that references the article and correct the inaccuracies. Share the facts on your social media channels.
Another approach is to battle your negative coverage with good news options. If reporters have a source for the unfavorable stories about your business/organization, be the source of favorable story ideas. Challenge the media to balance their coverage. Let them know when you’re doing something positive. Are you going to build a home using sustainable materials? Are you organizing volunteers to refurbish a home for an elderly person in need?
Notice my verb tense here. Think about things you’re doing now, or you’re going to do; not things you’ve already done. Giving the media information beforehand presents visual opportunities in the form of photos and video.
Put some effort into this and give it some time. Eventually, you’ll see results. If this task is important to you, but you don’t have the time and resources available to get this done in-house, hire a public relations professional. This is what we do well.