Clear Comm Consulting

The overlooked secret to positive media coverage — access

Jun 1, 2004

How do you get positive media coverage? If you are in the public eye in any way, getting something positive said about you can seem like climbing Mount Everest. It doesn’t have to be.

I recently asked one of the highest profile players in the world of politics about his relationship with the media. Arizona Senator John McCain is one of the few people who increased his profile after losing his race for the White House. How did he do it? “Reporters want access, and if you give it to them, generally they’ll treat you fairly.”

Even if you’re not a U.S. Senator, or wouldn’t want to be, there is still a lesson to be learned here. McCain made his “StraightTalk Express” bus tour the talk of the Presidential race four years ago and has used that same strategy ever since. The original premise was simple. You get all the time you want with the candidate and can ask him any question you want. Eventually it became so popular that every reporter around the country wanted a chance to ride on the bus and they had to shuttle reporters on and off. I know. I was shuttled! These days McCain is still one of the most quoted people in public life. “If you’re straight with reporters they’ll know it and generally you can get a fair shake,” McCain said.

What does that mean for you, your business, agency or cause? Access can be a magic word to reporters.

You might say, “I would never let a reporter in my kitchen/backroom/factory/office/home.”Why not? Reporters and their viewers and readers want to know how things tick … what makes them work … and often the only way to tell that story is through access. If any and all of your interactions with the outside world are handled only through a spokesperson and nothing else, don’t be surprised if your coverage is one dimensional … or non-existent.

How do you allow access without creating problems?

• Have a healthy atmosphere from the start. If you already have a good place to work/live/operate, then a reporter will have a good story to tell by everything he or she sees during a visit.

• Know what portion of your operation would make the best story and pick the time that would guarantee your best chance for success.

• Help your employees/staff/family members or whomever to understand how the media works. Through training and experience they can understand what is and is not appropriate in the media world.

John McCain knew his wife, kids and staff understood the public nature of his work and so he was comfortable with media access. Does that mean it always went perfectly? No. But what is always perfect in the real world?

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected]

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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