Too Big for Press

November 6, 2011

My job and what I do for clients is a lot different from the PR support that helps a U.S. Senator or the President of the United States. Running a high-tech agency, our material competes against numerous other stories to get placement in magazines, television, newspapers, blogs, etc. This typically requires a lot of persistence, solid writing, and creative hooks.

 

On the flip side, politicians, who represent millions of people, often have a set of reporters and press corps that actually follow them and report on statements, issues discussed, and current events. The work involved to get media coverage is significantly less than the work involved in representing a medium-sized company. And since a President or U.S. Senator represents “the people," they should, without reservation, grant fair, open, and regular access to those who report to the masses.

 

But on several recent occasions the press has been denied access.

 

When President Obama came to Boston a few months back and as the story goes, his team refused to give pool access to The Boston Herald because the Obama team did not like an Op-Ed piece that was written and put on the cover of The Herald several months prior to his visit. The Obama aides claimed the piece wasn’t “fair coverage.” Hmmm…it must be nice to be able to control which media you will allow to report and not report. Looking at this from the journalism standpoint—isn’t the role of the media to act as an independent watchdog and to question, probe, challenge, and investigate to report to the people? If you do your job you’re punished from doing it any further?

 

Then there’s Senator Scott Brown, Republican, Massachusetts. Senator Brown came into office as the anti-politician. Well, he is certainly upholding this idea, as his team of “communicators” has tried to “control” the media from a different perspective. They decided that they would only communicate with the press by releasing press releases, speeches, op-eds, and “friendly” interviews. According to The Boston Herald, the Senator refuses to answer media questions at public appearances or do press conferences. That strategy backfired when he stated that he saw a picture of a dead Osama bin Laden when it was actually a fake. Of course, the press corps couldn’t wait to jump on him.

 

The lesson here is that you must have an ongoing dialogue with press members and a respect for their field; regardless of size or importance. If not, the reporting can be tough. When a challenging issue arises and you need the press, they might not be there for you, or even worse, they might have an axe to grind. As both Obama and Brown gear up for another political race, they’ll need every bit of editorial support they can muster, and we'll see if they'll be as selective at that time.

 

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