The Media Relations Handbook, 2e is required reading for Capitol Hill press secretaries, federal agency public affairs officers, political campaign spin doctors, public affairs officers (PAOs), public information officers (PIOs), nonprofit PR professionals, lobbyists or anyone involved in garnering media coverage. The Media Relations Handbook 2e explores theory and practice, discussing general principles and illustrating each point with real-life examples.
America was founded by a public relations campaign. Certainly General George Washington's army played an important role as well in freeing the colonies from British tyranny. But it was Thomas Paine's pen, through his pamphlet Common Sense, which motivated thousands of colonists to join the rebel army to fight for the cause of liberty against their British cousins.
It's strange to think that public relations existed two hundred years ago, yet Common Sense was the first mass media campaign on American soil. In a nation of three million, more than 500,000 copies of the forty-page pamphlet were printed. That would be the modern-day equivalent today of about half of all voters watching the same thirty-minute documentary calling on them to overthrow their government—and most of them supporting the idea.
From cave drawings to the printing press to the Internet, leaders and their acolytes throughout human history have combined persuasive ideas and available technology to communicate those ideas to those they wish to influence. In a democratic context, the process takes on larger meaning, as the goals of the persuader are often intended to better the human condition, right a social wrong, or protect an unsuspecting public from some menace.
We think of public relations as a craft invented in the twentieth century by people like Edward Bernays, sometimes called the "Father of Public Relations." The writings and tactics of this first great thinker and practitioner in the industry redefined both government and corporate communications in America. Bernays (who was also the nephew of Sigmund Freud) defined the topography of our profession through his concept of "engineering consent," and the fundamental tools of press releases and photo opportunities that he perfected are still staples today.
Yet whether we use pen, pamphlet and horseback, or web site and satellite to carry the message, the basic principles remain the same. The great journalist Walter Lippmann said the question his communications profession faced was "what to say and how to say it." Communicators using public relations face the same question, but must add a twist: "to what end?" In public affairs, our objective must have some purpose, because the results of our work can have significant consequences. Through the communication of certain facts and how they are presented, people will vote for a candidate, contribute to a nonprofit, join an organization, or take up arms against their government.
This book is for those who are seeking the most effective means to communicate on behalf of a government agency, a national association or nonprofit, or an elected official. It will help you channel your hot passion with the cool guidance that has been gleaned through others' experience.
The author professes no unique insight into media relations in public affairs. Rather, this book is an amalgamation of the collective wisdom of hundreds of public relations professionals in the worlds of government and politics. It is an overview of the ideas that have become the accepted rules of communications in Washington, presented in one volume.
Soon before his death in 1995 at the age of 102, Edward Bernays was asked for his definition of a "public relations person." He scoffed at the notion that anyone who could write something down in a press release and hawk it to a newspaper could qualify for what he considered a meaningful calling. "A public relations person . . . is an applied social scientist who advises a client or employer on the social attitudes and actions to take to win the support of the publics upon whom his or her or its viability depends." (Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books 1996).)
In the world of public affairs, the "viability" of the cause often has greater meaning to us and to others than those causes in related public relations fields. We are not selling soap--we're selling ideas to improve the world. We promote a member of Congress who wants to cut taxes; a nonprofit executive who wants to stop a timber company from clearing a thousand-year-old forest; an association executive trying to build a coalition to lobby against federal regulations; or a federal agency trying to convince an industry that those same regulations might save lives and property.
The public relations profession in Washington is often derided as populated by nefarious characters, willing to say anything to promote their agenda. Like most caricatures of Washington politics, this is exaggerated and largely inaccurate. We may not be the direct descendants of Thomas Paine, but our lineage is closely connected. We mostly advance our employer's objectives because we believe in their causes; we share their faith that our goals are just and their achievement will make things better . . . if only a little bit. We like the idea that we can make a difference.
To do that, you have to know how. This book is a tool in that undertaking.From the Introduction
Summary of Contents
Ch. 1 First Steps
Ch. 2 Tools of the Craft
Ch. 3 Developing a Message and Communication Plan
Ch. 4 Interacting with Reporters
Ch. 5 Overview of the Media: Print, Radio, TV, and the Internet
Ch. 6 Online Communication
Ch. 7 Dealing With the Principal
Ch. 8 Interview Preparation
Ch. 9 Internal Issues: Experts, Policy, Numbers, Leaks, Lawyers, and Language
Ch. 10 How to Interact with Congressional Campaign Operations
Ch. 11 Communication in a Federal Agency
Ch. 12 Crisis Communication in Public Affairs
Ch. 13 Honest Spin: Ethics in Public Affairs
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 First Steps
1.2 Matching Convictions with A Job
1.3 Getting to Know the Principal
1.4 Assessing Your Strategic Position and Historical Record
1.5 Learning the Office Strategic Goals
1.6 Assessing the Issue Terrain
1.7 Conducting a Resource Assessment
1.8 Asset Inventory
1.9 List Building
1.10 Sample Database Checklist
1.11 Media Directories and Software
1.12 Getting to Know Your Reporters
1.13 Internal Politics
1.14 Creating a Communication Plan
1.15 Finding Teachers and Allies
1.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 2 Tools of the Craft
2.2 The First Tool: The Written Word
2.3 How to Test Your Document's Readability
2.4 Press Release
2.5 Email Press Releases
2.6 Sample Press Release
2.7 Press Advisory
2.8 Sample Press Advisory
2.11 Letters to the Editor
2.13 Press Conferences/Events
2.14 Press Conference Checklist
2.15 Photography and Video
2.16 Direct Mail
2.17 How NOT to Do Congressional Direct Mail Pieces
2.19 Radio Feed
2.20 Television Feed
2.21 Video News Releases (VNR)
2.22 Public Service Announcements
2.23 Tracking and Filing Systems
2.24 Teleconferences and "Telephone Town Halls"
2.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 3 Developing a Message and Communication Plan
3.2 The Message
3.3 How the Word "Campaign" is Used in This Chapter
3.4 Strategic Message Development
3.5 Campaign Message Development
3.6 The Message Box
3.7 The Limits of Message
3.8 Developing a Communication Plan
3.9 How to Do Everything Right and Still Fail -- Or, Getting O.J.'ed
3.10 How To Connect Your Message With Your Audience? S-E-D-A-T-E Them
3.11 Taking Advantage of Opportunities
3.12 Connecting the Message to the Meaningful
3.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 4 Interacting with Reporters
4.2 Pitching a Story
4.3 Steps to Pitching a Story
4.4 How to Determine a Reporter's Interest
4.5 Handling Reporter Calls
4.6 Tips on Talking to a Reporter
4.7 Handling Negative Stories
4.8 Issuing Written Statements Versus Doing Interviews -- Sometimes Less is More
4.9 Arguing with the Media
4.10 Common Reporter Problems
4.11 Minnesota -- Land of 10,000 Lakes & News Justice -- for Forty-One Years
4.12 "Off the Record"
4.13 Off the Record -- Glossary
4.14 Using Embargoes
4.15 Dealing with Trade or Specialty Press
4.16 Becoming Friends
4.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 5 Overview of the Media: Print, Radio, TV, and the Internet
5.2 Print Medium
5.3 Where Americans Get Their News
5.4 The Constantly Updated Newspaper Website
5.6 Television Medium
5.7 How to Understand Television Ratings
5.8 Live TV/TV Talk Shows/24-Hour Cable Networks
5.9 When to Pitch a TV Station
5.10 The Growing Partisanship of "News"
5.11 Radio Medium
5.12 Radio Talk Shows
5.13 The Internet Medium: Web Sites, Blogs, and Social Media
5.14 What Blogs Do Well: Get People Fired
5.15 Tips for PAOs and PIOs
5.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 6 Online Communication
6.10 The Differences Between Old Media and New Media
6.11 Rosenblatt's 3-D Model of Internet Communication
6.12 Al Gore Didn't Invent the Internet
6.13 Six Management Principles of Online Communication
6.14 How to Get the Boss to Go Online
6.15 The Great Twitter Battle of 2010
6.16 Tips for PAOs and PIOs
6.17 How to Connect Off-line Activities with Online Assets
6.20 The Little Web Site that Could .
6.21 Communicators and Visitors Goals
6.22 Five Building Blocks of Public Affairs Web Sites
6.30 Tracking and Adjusting Your Site
6.31 Accessibility and Web Sites
6.40 Principles of Public Affairs Email and Viral Marketing
6.41 Tips E-newsletters
6.42 Think before Hitting "Enter"
6.43 How to Write Great Subject Lines
6.44 Spam -- What's Legal, What's Right, What Works
6.50 Web Site as Journalist Resource
6.60 To Blog or Not to Blog
6.70 What Does a Public Relations Professional Really Need to Know about Social Media
6.80 Everything You Say to Anyone, Anywhere Is Now a Matter of Public Record
6.90 The Future
6.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 7 Dealing With the Principal
7.2 Developing a Relationship
7.3 Assessing Strengths and Weaknesses
7.4 "They're Out to Get Me" -- Dealing with the Paranoid Principal
7.5 "It's Not Good Enough" -- Dealing With The Media Hog
7.6 "Reporters Aren't Interested In Me" -- Dealing with the Media Mouse
7.7 How to Defuse the Exploding Principal
7.8 "Unofficial" Interactions
7.9 Appreciate That Principals Are Real People
7.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 8 Interview Preparation
8.2 Assessing the Reporter's Questions
8.3 Additional Sources on Preparing for and Conducting Media Interviews
8.4 Pre-Interview Preparation
8.5 Steps for Interview Preparation
8.6 Preparation Sessions
8.7 Tips to the Principal for Appearing on Television
8.8 Preparing for the Negative Interview
8.9 Tips to the Principal for Various Types of Interviews
8.10 Preparing for the Ambush Interview
8.11 Media Training
8.12 Things to Monitor During the Interview
8.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 9 Internal Issues: Experts, Policy, Numbers, Leaks, Lawyers and Language
9.2 Gathering Information from Experts
9.3 Interpreting and Translating Information
9.4 Translating Technical Information into Plain English
9.5 How to Use Numbers
9.6 Potential Message Conflicts with Policy Staff
9.9 Trial Balloons
9.10 Rogue Press Secretaries
9.11 Motivating Staff with Press Coverage
9.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 10 How to Interact with Congressional Campaign Operations
10.2 Getting to Know Your New Partners: The Campaign Team
10.3 Role of Consultants
10.4 Merging Policy Message with Campaign Message
10.5 Polls and Policy Positions
10.7 Use of Congressional Press Clippings in a Campaign
10.8 Campaign Attacks on the Member's Official Activities
10.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 11 Communications in a Federal Agency
11.2 What's Different About Federal Agencies
11.3 "Communicators Guide" by the Federal Communicators Network
11.4 The Bureaucracy
11.5 Information Flow: How to Stay Informed
11.6 Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA's)
11.7 FOIA References
11.8 Civil Service Professionals, Political Appointees, and Political Events
11.9 Summary of Hatch Act
11.10 Public Information Campaigns to Change Behavior
11.11 The Greatest Public Relations Challenge: When Government Works
11.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 12 Crisis Communication in Public Affairs
12.2 Preparing for the Crisis -- Crisis Communication Plan
12.3 Recognizing the Crisis and Adapting the Organization
12.4 Getting the Boss to Admit the Crisis Exists
12.5 Types of Communication Crises in Public Affairs
12.6 Systemic Crises
12.7 Contrasting Case Studies: Systemic Crisis -- Exxon and Tylenol
12.8 How to Use Online Communication and Social Media in a Crisis
12.9 Adversarial Crisis
12.10 Image Crisis
12.11 Travel Advisory -- How to Avoid Travel Scandals
12.12 Image Crisis -- Rules When You're Wrong
12.13 Contrasting Case Studies: Congressional Sex Scandals -- Barney Frank and Gary Condit
12.14 Image Crisis -- Rules When You're Right
12.15 Eight Mistakes to Avoid in a Crisis
12.16 Transparency of Motive
12.99 Chapter Summary
Chapter 13 Honest Spin: The Ethics of Public Relations
13.2 The Current Ethical Environment in Public Affairs
13.3 Ethical Duties of a Public Relations Professional
13.4 Common Ethical Challenges
13.5 Ethical Choices
13.6 Sources for Ethics and Public Affairs
13.99 Chapter Summary
1. Thirteen Rules of Media Relations
3. Related Resources
Epilogue: Remember Gunter Schabowski
Bradford Fitch (Author) is President of the Congressional Management Foundation. Previously Fitch was Vice President, Client Services for CQ-Roll Call Group, former CEO of Knowlegis, and former Deputy Director of the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF). He is the author of Media Relations Handbook for Agencies, Associations, Nonprofits and Congress (TheCapitol.Net) and Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials (TheCapitol.Net). Fitch has spent 20 years in Washington as a journalist, congressional aide, consultant, college instructor, and writer/researcher. Fitch began his career in communications at age 14, reading statistical summaries of high school basketball games for his hometown radio station in upstate New York. After working as a radio and television reporter in the mid-1980's, Fitch began working on Capitol Hill in 1988. During his 13 years on Capitol Hill, he served in a variety of positions for four Members of Congress, including: press secretary for a House Member, campaign manager for a House Member, communications director for a House committee, communications director for a U.S. Senator, legislative director for a House Member, and chief of staff for a freshman House Member.
Jack Holt (Editor) is a recognized leader in successfully formulating, implementing and managing communication programs for very large organizations including both the Department of Defense and the U.S. Federal Government. He created, developed, and produced the DoD Bloggers Roundtable and DoDLive web communication concept, co-authored the OSD policy memorandum DTM 09-026 for the Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities, and is co-founder of the DoD All Services Social Media Council. Jack has more than 20 years communication policy development and application experience, teaches at the graduate level, consults, and collaborates on how to effectively use the new and emerging media in meeting business needs including improving customer relationships, implementing change management and developing innovative organizational environments. He has his own communication consulting firm, is the Director for Policy Analysis for Blue Ridge Information Systems, adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University, and a member of TheCapitol.Net's faculty. He also teaches at the NATO School and has taught sessions on Communication, Journalism and New Media strategies and tactics at the Defense Information School and the Naval Post Graduate School. He is also a member of the PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Committee and the 2009 Chair for the PRSA National Capital Region Public Affairs and Government Committee.
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"[T]his book will be of value to students and professionals of political communications and public relations. Summing up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional collections."
-- CHOICE (click for full review)
"Although targeted for new media relations staff or ones starting a new press office, even the most experienced public information officer can learn from this book."
-- Gene Rose, Director of Public Affairs, NCSL, in State Legislatures magazine, December 2004 (click to see full review - pdf ))
"Want to become a media relations ace? Here's expert advice. The book is loaded with tips for corporate communicators as well. Impact recommends it highly."
-- Impact (Public Affairs Council), July/August 2004
"The 'bible' of media relations and a must for anyone charged with the responsibility of successfully dealing with (and utilizing) the media for their agency, group, or cause."
-- Midwest Book Review, June 2004
"Offers a wealth of practical advice on public relations that will be of benefit to governmental and non-governmental organizations alike."
-- Municipal World, July 2004
"Great advice for beginners and experienced media hands. If you are a media relations professional--either beginner or seasoned veteran--this is the book for you. Brad Fitch, who spent many years fielding reporters' tough questions on Capitol Hill, has written a timely, practical guide to handling media relations that is filled with solid professional advice. What goes into a press release? How do you develop a strategic message? You've got a digital camera and a fax machine, but what else does your office need to effectively handle the media? Before you start talking to a reporter, do you know the difference between 'on the record,' 'off the record,' and 'background'? When there's an immediate crisis in your organization, what are the eight mistakes that you absolutely must avoid? How do you handle your paranoid boss when he or she has to confront the press? You'll find the answers to these and many other everyday problems in this book. Fitch also gives valuable advice on how to set up an effective website and how to use e-mail for optimum communications. Excellent book for professionals who work in federal or state agencies, trade associations, non-profits, state legislatures or Congress. It's the only handbook you'll ever need."
-- Dennis W. Johnson, college professor and former Capitol Hill senior staffer
"Provides valuable advice for those who flack for a living."
-- Roll Call, April 21, 2004, page 3 and page 22 (pdfs)
"A superb blend of theory and practice, written by someone who uses words like Gallup uses polls."
-- Steve O'Keefe, author "Complete Guide to Internet Publicity" and Adjunct Faculty, Tulane University College
"Uncertain how to interest the press in your pressing issue? Having difficulty preparing your media-unfriendly boss for a tough interview? Worried about the next communications crisis and how to handle it? Brad Fitch answers those questions and many more in this crisp, clear and completely useful book."
-- Tucker Carlson, TV analyst, author
"A seminar from TheCapitol.Net is one of the best ways to learn from the experts about how Washington really works. Now all that insight and information has been packed into this invaluable volume. I suggest you read it, and become your own expert."
-- Steven V. Roberts, syndicated columnist, TV and radio analyst, college professor
"Brad Fitch has performed an admirable public service by giving public relations students and professionals alike an indispensable tool. His book provides a road map on both the practicalities and principles of PR, and he shows that honest PR is not an oxymoron. Now it's up to all of us in the media and spin industries to keep our end of the bargain."
-- Ed Henry, Congressional Correspondent, CNN (formerly Senior Editor of Roll Call)
"This volume is an invaluable road map to the mean streets of a city where information is power and power is everything. Brad Fitch has written a rich 'how-to' lesson for pros and for novices who must negotiate the competitive landscape of America's new media."
-- Ann Compton, White House Correspondent, ABC News
"Media Relations Handbook is to political campaigns what The Art of War is to military campaigns: an essential strategic reference that winners should never be without."
-- James Carville, TV analyst, author
"In the Media Relations Handbook, author Brad Fitch effectively presents practical ideas and tips on how to properly conduct media relations. ... The book is a comprehensive and recommended read for anyone interested in learning more about public relations and how people and organizations should conduct their relationships with the media."
-- James J. Casey, Jr., Wisconsin Lawyer, April 2006
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