You are a PR executive at a Midwestern picnic basket manufacturer, and a local newspaper reporter recently ran a story about your company’s practices. Though the facts of the story as reported were correct, the report was slanted to portray your company in an unwarrantedly negative light. What do you do?
You have four main choices:
1.) Let them have it. Issue a scathing press release questioning the reporter and the newspaper’s journalistic integrity, and distribute it to every other media outlet. Then, just for good measure, yank all your advertising.
2.) Contact the reporter privately and dispute the contents of the story.
3.) Write a letter to the editor of the publication, rebutting the tone of the story.
4.) Do absolutely nothing.
With choice #1, you will undoubtedly feel better. You’ve unleashed the power of right onto a biased reporter and dragged your organization’s good name back out of the mud. But what does it say about a company that responds with the full force of their PR department to every crank who has a vendetta against picnics?
Tread lightly around choice #2, confronting the reporter, because this could turn into an exercise in dancing on a hornet’s nest. Because the story was factually correct, you have little recourse when it comes to disputing the facts. You can certainly bring up your concerns about the story’s negative tone and ask the reporter to take a second look at your company. Of course, this could make an already unfriendly reporter feel controlled. And the last thing a reporter appreciates is feeling pressured by vested interests to report the news differently.
Choice #3, writing a letter to the editor, allows you time to cool down and collect your arguments in writing before you defend your company. You’ll feel better, and by confronting the source of the story instead of blitzing the media with a counter story as in choice #1, you’ll look less like you have something to hide.
Believe it or not, no matter how egregious you felt the story was, or how badly you want to defend the company from a biased account, choice #4 – do absolutely nothing – is often your best bet. Choices 1 through 3 can incite an argument or even lead to more bad press for your company, while choice #4, marshalling all your grace and ignoring one crank who just happens to hate picnic baskets, will often cause the story to die out on its own.
Calvin Coolidge, known as “Silent Cal,” supposedly remarked “I’ve never been hurt by what I haven’t said.” Though PR is known as a profession of words, sometimes silence is a PR professional’s most effective weapon.
If, on the other hand, the reporter commits factual errors in the story, complain! Write a letter, ask for a retraction, write a blog post, and send your press release. Better yet, while you’re in the limelight, gather your most interesting news items and jump on the opportunity to generate even more press.
This article, written by Jennifer Escalona, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.