The importance of a media policy...and what it might contain



The importance of having a media policy….and what it might contain

 Several years ago I was running media training alongside an organisation in the engineering sector and the conversation turned to media policies. During the discussion one participant new to the organisation commented,

 “At my last organisation the media policy was very simple. Only the Chairman and Managing Director spoke to the media. If anyone else did they were fired!”

 Whilst that slightly less than enlightened approach may score highly on simplicity, I think that openness and transparency in communications has moved on someway and things are a little more sophisticated today. Nevertheless, having a framework media policy in place is important.

The relationship between any organisation and it’s media is an important one and, for a variety of reasons, should be properly managed. That is not so say that a media policy is full of “Thou shalt nots….”, and there is far more to a media policy than just an instruction that tells staff who will speak or is allowed to speak to the media. A clear framework understood by everyone within the organisation is a very important safety net and a good media policy can set the tone for communication with a whole range of stakeholders including the media.

“Why have a media policy? Firstly, protection for the individual and secondly protection for the organisation.”

The individual is protected because if they follow the policy they are able to act in line with a defined framework. They can respond to media approaches with confidence and know where the limits of their authority lie.

Having an instruction or process to follow gives certainty to actions. People generally respond well to knowing what is expected of them and ensures that individual employees are less likely to fall prey to the serpent like tongue of the journalist trying to solicit an off the record comment!

The public reputation of the organisation as a whole is better protected as each individual within it is bound to a common framework. Very importantly there will be a far greater awareness of any media interest in the organisation if, as a part of the policy, the communications team are informed of any media approaches to the organisation and media facing activity by people within it.

The nightmare scenario for the communications lead is that they are made aware of an article about their organisation, including a quote from someone within it, of which they had no previous knowledge. Discovery of such articles usually coincides with a phone call from a member of the senior leadership team asking, “Did you know about this?”

So, what should a media policy contain?  Top Tips!

 

A clear positioning statement from the top of the organisation as to the corporate view of the importance of media relations and the purpose of the media policy.

A clear statement of the appropriate actions by all staff to media enquiries.  Everyone should be made aware of these actions on a regular basis.  The simplest action is to refer all media enquiries to the press office or a named person.

Only authorised people will respond to media enquiries.  Preferably they should have had some formal training.  Everyone must know whether they are an authorised spokesperson or not, and on which areas they can be available for comment.

However proactive or reactive, open or closed the policy to media relations, it must be understood that all enquiries are routed through the press office or in the case of smaller organisations a nominated person.  This allows them to decide whether or not to make a formal response and to go through the pre-interview arrangements making preparations for the potential interviewee.  This process still applies even if the journalist gets through directly to an authorised spokesperson.

Everyone within the organisation must inform the press office of anything that is likely to be of media interest.  That includes good news as well as bad.  This is a process of education for most organisations, as most people do not recognise the media value of events that happen around them.  Given an awareness of the media people will understand more fully and will contribute more freely if they develop a knowledge of media relations. 

Clearly with media policies one size doesn’t fit all organisations, but as a start point the above tips work well. If people understand how they should respond to media enquiries then they and the organisation is in a good place.


…..but what should a social media policy contain? See our next post!


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