Many smaller businesses (and larger ones) tend to avoid the media like the plague, frequently resorting to “no comment” above all else. Not only do you alienate the media and risk bad publicity and eventual blackouts (i.e. the media will neglect you when you DO need publicity), you also give up the opportunity to create new partnerships and allies.

CEOs should learn to recognize and respect the power of public media and the public at large, even if these aren’t direct stakeholders.

Remember that buzz and word-of-mouth can either grow or break a company, CEOs should learn the wisdom of adapting to the public voice of reason, and the public cry for justice. CEOs, above all, should be sensitive to the needs of others, and be prepared to take any appropriate and positive action to help the public and invariably the public media, reach an amicable resolution should there be concerns. Any small concern, left unresolved, may quickly grow into ugly cancerous tumors of distrust and disgust for the companies. The media is an ally and friend, not an enemy. An enlightened CEO recognizes that and can leverage it positively, rather than attack the media with little positive returns.

Actions: Partnership tips

First, present substance on time. The Chinese philosophy of Tai Chi comes to mind. When an opponent hits you with a powerful direct force, you harness his brute strength and defuse it to your advantage, rather than go against your opponent head on with an equal and opposite brutal force, which cripples you both. The media remembers, and CEOs should establish the brand of themselves and the companies they run as allies and friends of the media. Be always prepared to answer questions promptly and accurately, without prejudice or malice.

In return, the media will provide the compelling leverage of public education that the companies would have spent millions of advertising dollars to try to achieve.

Second, don’t attempt to bribe the media. The good ones won’t bite.

When marketers and publicists work with their journalistic and broadcast colleagues, it is important to know that the paramount factor to news coverage is NOT about pleasing them, but providing them with timely and useful information (useful to readers and audiences), in the fashion demanded or requested by the journalists.

And when the time comes for a comment, journalists expect good spokespersons that can speak eloquently and with substance.

The archaic notion that as long as you treat journalists ridiculously well and you will reap good news is pure fantasy. Journalists are accountable to thousands if not millions of stakeholders – their readers and audiences, and have to look for constructive, truthful, well-supported news stories. Do you have what they need?

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.