When it comes to media relations, do you want to be the Apple or the Donut?

At PRSA’s annual international conference in Boston last October, I had the opportunity to hear a variety of speakers from a large number of different companies. Speakers at two of the breakout sessions I attended represented a vast difference in media relations strategy that I wanted to share with you.

One of the breakout session speakers was a former communications executive from Apple. Among his suggestions for successful media relations was to stay focused.

The Apple Communications team had one mission: to tell the story about how Apple’s products help change consumers’ lives, he said. If a media request came in that did not move that mission forward, the Apple team declined it, he said.

Another breakout session was led by some members of the Dunkin’ Donuts communications team (and if you’ve ever visited Boston or anywhere else in Massachusetts, you know how appropriate that was). One of the donut speakers said that the news media appreciates her company’s genuine, approachable executives who are willing to talk about all topics, even ones not related to Dunkin’ Donuts.

So there you have it: two strategies that are polar opposites. So let me ask you, if you were a general assignment reporter who was working on a story, which company would you find yourself tending to call more often than the other? The Apple or the Donut? My guess is it would be the Donut.

What is the strategy at the organization where you work? Do you avoid all media calls that don’t advance your mission, or do you maintain an open door policy?

One of my former department heads preferred the open door policy. “It’s called ‘media relations,’ not ‘media transactions,’” he explained.

And he was right. Think about your personal life. What if you had a friend who was only available when they needed something but turned you down every time you asked for a favor? How long would that relationship last?

When a reporter calls your organization looking for help on a story and you turn them away, what will that person’s reaction be when you call them to pitch a positive story?

PR people forget that reporters are people and have the same general personality characteristics. It’s only natural that a reporter who is constantly rebuffed by an organization is going to hesitate when that organization calls them with a story idea/pitch. That’s human nature.

Your organization will never enjoy only positive news coverage. Sometimes there are going to be negative stories that will test your communications department’s resolve and expose its true character. Don’t take the ostrich approach. Be upfront. Tell your own negative news. If you don’t, the other side will and chances are it will be worse than if you had spoken up.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself able to assist a reporter with a story that has nothing to do with your company. Always try and be as helpful as you can.

My advice is to take the donut approach. Reporters have long memories. They don’t forget when you go out of your way to be helpful, and, besides, donuts are much sweeter than apples!

Share on Social