Prepping for a media interaction

So, you have this big media interaction planned with your CEO and other business leaders. You have been delegated the responsibility of running the show, end to end. And it is your first time.

We have all been there. Have experienced the anxiety, the nervousness, the thrill and the excitement. For the first timers, planning a critical event can almost tie you into knots. When in such a situation, ensure you follow the WWWWH route for the perfect outcome.

The first W – the WHY of it

I have been in organisations where leaders wanted every small change to be communicated externally. It was my role as a communicator to explain the rationale behind doing/not doing a media outreach. A favorite pet peeve of many business leaders is the ubiquitous press release. Ask any journalist how many press releases they receive in a day. You would be surprised. Most of them are dumped in the nearest dustbin.

To ensure your news hits the right buttons, is carried in the right channels, ask WHY should this news be out. Is it truly newsworthy?  What are the business imperatives that demand that this news be shared externally? What is the objective? What are the outcomes expected? Is it a legal and mandatory filling of news? Once you have your WHY in place, it is time to get down to the real work.

The second W – the WHAT of it

The key in this WHAT is the messaging. And here is where we make the most common mistake. Our first instinct is to draft messages in line with what the business wants to say. Hold on. What about what your audience wants to hear? Before you even draft the key messages, it would be prudent to first identify your stakeholders. Whom are you targeting this news at? What does this specific group of audience wish to hear from you? How do you ensure your news is aligned along those lines? In the first cut, your messages may be discordant. That’s okay. We all learn by improvising. Work on the messages till you get them right to the ‘T’. There can be no room for error here.

The third W – the WHEN of it

Now we come to the WHEN. Do not underestimate this ‘W’! if it is a press conference where you plan to invite the beat journalists or the editors, you will need to take into consideration the day and the time. Most journalists do not come for evening events since that is the time they file their news/reports. Mondays are to be avoided because you cannot follow up on the final arrangements over the weekend. Best days are Wednesday or Thursday. Next, scan the external environment to check other major events happening in that week. If there is a big political announcement, the likelihood of your corporate news getting sidelined is very high. Similarly, if elections are around, go back to your messaging and stakeholders list to check if the timing of your news is appropriate or whether it can be postponed till you have a stable political environment. 

The fourth W – the WHERE of it

Besides the timing and the day, the location of your press meet has a very strong bearing on the number of attendees that finally turn up. An ideal location is one where the media can reach easily and is in close proximity to their offices so that they can go back and file the story the same evening. Your objective should be to ensure that the news is published at the earliest.

The H – HOW of it

Everything is ready. Messages done. Stakeholders identified. How are you going to send the news out? Decide whether it is going to be a press release or an exclusive with a few journalists. Or a media roundtable. Keep the media takeaways read – brochures, profiles of speakers…the works. Also shortlist your metrics – how are you going to measure the outcomes identified right in the first ‘W’? 

Finally, don’t forget the ‘HOW MUCH’ in this – calculate your resources and have a cost estimate ready for approval. Voilà! You are ready to roll.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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