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Consistency is Key

May 22, 2014
Last month, I began laying out the steps for how to garner good placement of your positive media pieces. I’m going to continue with this concept by explaining how a history of consistent and transparent communication is paramount.
I left off at sitting down with your local or regional reporters one-on-one to get a feel for their personalities. This leads into my next point, the importance of that face time.
Step Four: Begin your messaging
You want to build a house? You’ve already laid the foundation with those face-to-face meetings. Now start stacking bricks. Using the style tips I enumerated earlier in this series (using AP rules, writing in the inverted pyramid, keeping things short and on-point, etc.) begin sending your stories.

They should be focused to the publication or reporter. They should be complete and compelling. That way, there’s no reason why the reporter or editor could turn them down. They know you, they trust you – they know this is good info. Don’t ever give them reason to doubt.
Step Five: Be consistent
This is the biggest trip-up I see in the government media-relations world. Once you start, you can’t stop. Always have something coming. Always have stories, photos, updates. Do not stop, because if you do, something else will fill that vacuum. And it won’t be good news about your community, of that I am sure.
Step six: Be transparent
Eventually, a story is going to happen in your community that is not easy or fun to tell. At this point, your natural inclination is to close-up ranks and protect. You have to fight that urge and be as open, honest and complete as possible.
Crises, to the disciplined professional, are opportunities. They are opportunities because that reporter is going to need that story and you can be the one they count on. They are not going to quit, and attempting to obfuscate a truth or mislead them is only going to pique their curiosity more.
Be mature. Engage personably, but do not react emotionally. Act calmly and surely, with an eye always on the various outcomes you hope to achieve. When the dust settles, every reporter will remember who helped them get the complete story and who didn’t.
Step Seven: Always respond
I end with this because it is perhaps the most important single thing you can do. No matter what, always call reporters back. Always respond to e-mails. Always, always, always.
Here’s the thing: Even if you don’t have the information they need, you might be able to direct them to the person who does. You might be able to clue them in to a different aspect of a story or a different angle they should consider. You might be able to provide them a private insight they can’t get anywhere else.
News never stops. Reporters and editors need grist for the mill all day every day – so be the one they know they can count on. Once you build that trust, it’s priceless.
That’s it for this month. Next month I’m going to talk about branding and what that word actually means.
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.