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When media relations go bad

Amber Daines | 25 January, 2024


Anyone who has worked with journalists long enough knows that building solid connections is one of the best ways to secure earned media for your clients or yourself. It would be naïve to think that is the end of the story; if it was, I doubt I’d have a business!

Relationships of all kinds need nurturing and maintenance and can be challenging, to be blunt. Media relationships are no different but are sometimes not just about how much your business has done or how great your angle or idea is (to you). The notion that every media release or offering a reporter an exclusive PR pitch will land you a story is something we hear a lot.

Early on, I leveled with my clients and said we could never guarantee or pay for coverage. “Chequebook journalism” is the old-fashioned way to refer to stories that are paid placements or ones in which the talent gets remuneration for giving an interview, often following a high-profile scandal or life-changing event. Not things we do at Bespoke Co.

Media relations can go sour for various reasons, and the consequences can damage an individual’s or organisation’s reputation. Here are some common scenarios and factors that can contribute to adverse outcomes in media relations:

Poor Crisis Management

In times of crisis, how an individual or organisation responds to media inquiries and communicates with the public can significantly impact its reputation. Poor crisis management, such as delayed responses or inadequate information, can lead to negative media coverage.

Miscommunication or Inaccurate Information

Providing incorrect or misleading information to the media can result in a loss of trust. Journalists and the public expect accuracy and transparency, and any deviation from this can harm an entity’s credibility.

Lack of Accessibility

Avoiding media inquiries or being unresponsive can create an impression of secrecy or evasiveness. Organisations need to be accessible and responsive to the media to maintain open lines of communication.

Ineffective Spokesperson

Having a woefully unprepared or inexperienced spokesperson can lead to misrepresentation or miscommunication. A spokesperson should be well-trained, articulate, and capable of conveying the organisation’s message effectively and with humanity.

Ignoring Social Media

In the age of social media, ignoring or mishandling online communication can exacerbate negative publicity. Failure to address issues on platforms like Twitter or Facebook can allow misinformation to spread unchecked.

Conflict with Journalists

Engaging in conflicts with journalists, whether publicly or behind the scenes, can create a hostile relationship that may lead to biased reporting or negative coverage.

Overly Defensive Stance

Being overly defensive or dismissive in response to criticism can backfire. It’s essential to address concerns constructively and demonstrate a willingness to address issues rather than deflect blame.

Legal Battles

Engaging in lengthy legal battles with the media can draw negative attention and may be perceived as an attempt to suppress information. Legal actions should be carefully considered to avoid further damaging public relations. Defamation suits are famously unsuccessful in Australia.

Ethical Lapses

Engaging in unethical practices or scandals can lead to a severe media backlash. Maintaining high ethical standards is crucial to safeguarding reputation.

Lack of Consistent Messaging

Inconsistencies in messaging across different media channels or within an organization can create confusion and erode trust. Consistency in communication is critical to building credibility.

When media relations go wrong, individuals and organizations need to assess the situation, take responsibility for any mistakes, and work to rebuild trust through transparent and effective communication. Seeking professional guidance in handling media relations and crisis communication can be beneficial in navigating challenging situations.

To reboot your 2024 PR plans or get media relations back on track, please email or book a no-obligation Zoom: