controlled conditions: a key media op strategy

here at small print we take our media opportunities seriously. it doesn’t mean that humour isn’t a part of the shtick — and as i’ve had orange spandex-clad superheroes hawking hybrid cars on television, and puppets doing workplace public service announcements, i believe humour can be an effective part of any media outreach — but it does mean that i want the humour to be directed by me rather than at me.

too often, though, the humour at a media event or opportunity is misdirected. you’ve all seen it: the event where the giant scissors can’t cut the ribbon, or the speech that gets mangled beyond recognition and picked up by far too many of the local media.

sometimes, of course, it is not even humour. it is just the discomfort of knowing that things just didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to: the media didn’t show up. the public didn’t show up. the stakeholders didn’t show up. the media showed up, but no one else did. the weather showed up. traffic showed up. the neighbours dog showed up. your mother showed up. and you always tend to get more nervous with mom in the crowd…

over the lifespan of this blog, i’ll probably hit on the does and don’ts of media ops and media events countless times. the one theme that i will always hit upon, though, is that of being prepared; of making sure that every aspect of the opportunity is under your control.

a couple of tips:

1. prepare well/maintain control.

make sure any props you have on hand work AND that you know how to work them.

practice speeches and interviews ahead of time so that anyone speaking knows what they are going to say and can answer any questions asked of them.

be sure that the setting is secure and that passersby are not permitted to disturb the event — trust me, there are no shortage of people wanting to waive their arms and shout “hey mom! i’m on tv!”

2) set objectives:

never create or accept your media opportunity without knowing precisely why you are doing it and what you are seeking to achieve. you may think this obvious, but there are a lot of people who manage to get media attention only to blow it by delivering messages that are either confusing or miss their target goals. being clear on your objectives provides you with the focus and clarity needed to prepare for the media and to shape your words into cohesive statements that convey your messages clearly and efficiently. the first step is being sure what it is that you are trying accomplish.

at some point, i’ll lay out 10 golden rules for media preparation. not today, though. the blog is long enough for now.

in the meantime, here is a good example of why you need to pay great attention to preparation. the woman being interviewed probably didn’t need advice on tip #2 (setting objectives), but she sure would have been helped by #1 (maintaining control).

of course, in this situation, i could have shortened the whole thing and just gone with a third tip: never, ever, expect animals to behave on camera.