Lesley McLeod of the Transport Reasearch Institute, Napier University addressing the meeting.
© John G. Fender 2011
Lesley McLeod provided members with a detailed insight into how do deal effectively with the media and included much practical advice in her detailed talk and discussion of various aspects of this important subject.
It is important to plan media relations and it is important that the key media is identified, but it can be difficult to get media coverage for transport, unless something goes wrong. It is important to cultivate transport correspondents so that the media reports will be positive. Newspapers want something that is happening instead of something that is static. A key element is to find out what a newspaper, or news broadcaster, likes and then tailor the story to their wants.
For example, if you have something to announce, you need to plan it in advance, work out what angle to put forward and provide an opportunity for photographs to be taken. It is advisable to separate the photographic element from the reporting element so that the whole event can be managed. With photographs, try to get something other than the traditional picture of the chief executive shaking hands with someone else. Creativity is important, but care needs to be taken so that the wrong image is not projected.
As there is a limited amount of news space, it is important to plan where the story will appear, for example, appears first in the national press, with continuation in the regional and local press. The use of specialist publications should also be made. Care needs to be taken with the way a press release is written as it is important to get the main points across at the beginning and in as clear a way as possible. The media needs to be monitored as this provides information as to how the story is being reported. The media loves transport subjects but only when something goes wrong. By maintaining contacts and building partnerships with the media.
When releasing a news story, the timing is important. Try to avoid clashes with other major events. It is useful to arrange a photocall, but these should be held away from the main event as photographers and journalists generally do not mix. Photographers are always trying to get a better shot and their constant movement and flashes from flashguns can be very distracting to someone making an announcement.
Transport and Logistics often comes under the media spotlight when something goes wrong and it is important to know how to handle "crisis" situations. If something has gone wrong, it is advisable only to speak to the media when you have something worth saying. It may be necessary to issue a "holding statement". Avoid having the chief executive or other head of an organisation speaking to the media. The aim is to deal with the crisis and close it down quickly.
Throughout her talk, Lesley illustrated the various points being made with examples that she has come across in her career, some of which were humorous and during the question and answer session, Lesley answered many questions and provided further hints and tips that would be very useful in dealing with the media.
The Scottish region would like to thank Professor Kirby of the Transport Research Institute and Napier University for hosting the meeting.
Report by John Fender.
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