by: Rosemaria DiBenedetto, Stryker-Munley Group—Chicago.

Building a reputation from the ground up takes time and sacrifice. But protecting one’s image is just as important as building it in the age of social media and a 24-hour news cycle.

What can a company do to improve their image or protect it during a crisis? Here are a few critical steps every CEO should consider.

First, hire a Public Relations (PR) Specialist.  Many people think they can do public relations by contacting a media source or sending out a press statement. But only an experienced PR specialist understands who to engage, how to provide the reporter with what he/she needs and when to get the story published.

Who you engage with your story is just as important as when. Being selective about who you pitch a story to can make a difference in getting it published. Contacting the right media outlet is a prudent way to ensure your target audience sees your information.

These days, many reporters do not have the same resources they did in the past to get a story researched, photographed and produced. A PR specialist can assist in giving reporters the help they need without compromising the story. Providing reporters the information they require to produce the segment or story by going on “background” to fill in the gaps is a better way to ensure your story is given a fair chance of seeing the light of day.

Finally, when a story gets pitched is also important. Remember, timing is everything. Traditionally, bad news is buried late in the day on Friday when most reporters are wrapping up their business of the week and the public is already thinking about their weekend plans. If you want to improve your chances of positive exposure, give strong consideration as to the timing of your release to the media.

Second, hire someone local.  A good PR specialist will have the local relationships and reputation to get a story published and to represent their clients effectively. Competition for getting news coverage is difficult. The adage still holds true in today’s sensational news cycle: if it bleeds it leads. Given this, good stories can get bumped for breaking news. Follow up by a local PR professional can better one’s chances of the story not getting buried in the day’s headlines. Having a specialist on the ground who understands the market and knows the key contacts at news outlets will make a major difference.

Third, hold the press accountable. The biggest complaint from those who get negative news coverage is the reporter got the story all wrong. So, what does one do if that happens to your company? A good PR person will hold the press accountable to their clients.  It begins with establishing a relationship with the reporter from the onset.

Reporters do not want to “get burned” by their sources and PR people do not want their clients getting unfair coverage. Setting the rules between the PR person and the reporter can help in holding each party accountable for their actions.

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