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. I remember a reporter back in 2015 telling me that he really liked Facebook's communications team, specifically because"they answered him." But others would say that they"had to play by Facebook's rules" to keep getting access, lest they be cut off from new stories or the ability to talk to Facebook personnel, similar to
Apple's technique of blacklisting those who don't abide by their terms of engagement.This public relations strategy generally works well for companies that are"hot" at a particular point in time — when people are desperate to write about you, you basically do what you want, knowing that even the lightest cough you make will be news (
like adding a hug emoji to Facebook).It's the public relations version of a carrot and stick — you focus on building relationships with those who write positive things, and shun those who don't agree to cover things in your specific way. While it's inevitable in PR that you'll choose the path of least resistance, the core difference is seeing the press not as a necessary part of society, but as either an enemy or a propaganda arm for your company. headtopics.com
Last year, the Columbia Journalism Review published"Spies, Lies, and Stonewalling: What It's Like to Report on Facebook," a damning indictment of Facebook's PR strategy, with"many journalists contacted for [the story declining] to talk out of fear of hurting relationships with Facebook's communications shop [and] a number of journalists agreed to be interviewed, only to pass after speaking to their editors and PR reps." The article, which tells stories of Facebook using off-the-record dinners to mold reporters' stories, and in one case even writing a story for a reporter, includes a quote from former New York Times reporter Charlie Warzel, who"sees in Facebook's battle-hardened posture a strategic effort to resemble companies like Amazon, which rarely responds to public controversy and somehow manages to weather every storm."
This strategy is effective until it isn't, but when exactly it stops working is hard-to-define. When a company becomes famous enough that simply existing is news, reporting on them becomesnecessary, which removes the urgency of communications that many PR people struggle with in pitching stories.
The result is that the company in question acts with the confidence of someone that believes that the media needs them — the onus is not on the company to build relationships with reporters that may not say entirely positive things. While smart companies know that scrutiny is part of the process, those that have grown into multi-billion dollar enterprises can find themselves blindsided by negative press when the pristine, breathless coverage gives way to lengthy critiques.
What makes a"good" media relationship isn't extremely challenging, either. Be available, answer questions quickly, clearly, and ideallyon the record.Esper) Dave Ruddock told me that Qualcomm is a good example of a successful communications strategy in action. They are generally available for a quote and able to help reporters tap a product expert with ease. headtopics.com
"Another reason I always liked Qualcomm is they understood media relations was about facilitating conversations above all else," said Ruddock."If you didn't feel comfortable talking to them, why would you? It's a relationship and it requires work to maintain, and they understand that."
In my own experience, the most successful large companies tend to be responsive to reporters — even when they can't comment on the record — and make an attempt to build relationships with outlets outside of the biggest names in tech.When negative press comes for a company like Facebook that has faced so little journalistic opposition, the rubber band effect is that much worse — because it usually means something really bad is happening. And when your communications strategy is based on a culture of intimidation, it's hard to suddenly build positive relationships with a press corps that you've treated in, at best, a usurious manner. Now, Facebook is reaping what it sewed.
A shift across the tech industry Read more: Business Insider »
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