Get In Front Of It

Getting in front of the story is a classic tactic by press officers and PIOs. If you don’t know what it means, it’s basically you know that some bad news is going to come out and there will be lots and lots of interest from the public and the media. NOT getting in front of the story means that the media asks the questions first and sets the stage for how you’ll respond. How would you respond to the question, “When did you stop beating your wife,” to use a classic example. Even denying the question legitimizes it being asked, and now you’re on the defensive. Getting in front of it means that you make the first statement and set the stage for what the follow up questions will be.

This great post by Amanda Rose, posted to Comms2point0, gives a great example of how this tactic works:

Prior to the trial beginning, we contacted the local and national media. I asked whether they would be covering the trial and talked through details of the case and the council’s involvement. We wanted to be open and upfront.

We did the same a few weeks before the end of the trial and prior to sentencing. Building and maintaining those relationships was vital. This preparation work meant we knew exactly what media wanted and they were more positive towards us.

This got me to thinking about what this process looks like today. Sure, press officers, media relations folks and PIOs still do this, managing the media, but could we do it with social media?

And the answer is, of course you can! I would argue it’s much easier to set the stage for future questions–easier to get ahead of the story–with a forward-thinking social or digital media manager for a number of reasons. First, it’s a much lower bar for publication. A tweet should be correct and right and vetted and approved, but does it rise to the level of a press release or an official press statement? There are no quotes needed, no setting the stage, no assembling a gaggle of reporters. Just write it, get it approved and post.

The second reason gets back to the linked article:

Relationships with journalists were just as important.

Every press officer will tell you that their relationships with the media are worth their weight in gold. But our audience these days isn’t just the media. It’s everyone. Members of the public can drive just as much interest and traffic and media interest as members of the media can. So managing our relationship with the public is JUST as important as managing our relationship with the media. By posting regularly to social media channels, we can get ahead of the story that the public will concoct. We can influence how they react to the bad news. But that won’t happen if we’re ON social media. And USING social media. And being seen as a RESOURCE by the public. That’s how you get ahead of the story today.

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