For CEOs and company leaders, interacting with the media isn’t an option — it’s a necessity. The media plays a significant role in telling your company story and shaping your public image. To ensure they tell an accurate story, however, it’s essential to learn how to work with the media and strive to understand how the industry is shifting.
For insights into how to build lasting media relationships, we spoke with journalist Jason Kelly, who’s been a business journalist for nearly 20 years and currently serves as Chief Correspondent for Bloomberg Quicktake. In a recent episode of the ICR podcast, Welcome to the Arena, he shared key insights for how CEOs can forge relationships with the media and use current trends to their advantage.
First and foremost, CEOs must realize that the media isn’t the enemy; in fact, quite the opposite. According to Kelly, the best journalists are driven by pure curiosity. “It’s all about wanting to understand a situation, wanting to understand people, wanting to understand how people relate to one another, wanting to understand their motivations and histories,” he explains.
To enable journalists to gain that kind of understanding, however, you must be willing to build relationships with them. “The relationship piece cannot be overstated,” says Kelly. He notes that the strongest relationships are cultivated over a long period of time, rather in moments when you immediately need something.
When you develop those relationships, you will quickly begin to understand the types of stories that the journalists want to tell. And right now, the media is digging into big questions that surround the future of the workplace and how companies are responding to repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lingering effect to this,” he says. From the Great Resignation to individuals’ general migration to different parts of the country and world, the media wants to explore how people’s day-to-day lives are different and how their relationships with employers have changed. “I have very few conversations these days — whether it’s with Wall Street folks, sports folks, or anyone in between — that doesn’t somehow revolve around that.”
Being aware of these trends in media coverage can help you prepare for those conversations and interviews and address the issues that are top of mind for the public and your shareholders.
CEOs should also be aware of a major shift in media consumption. People want to consume media, whether it’s television shows, the news, or music, on their own schedule. “This media shift was already underway, but it was accelerated by the pandemic,” Kelly explains.
In this era of immediate information, it’s critical for CEOs and company leaders to keep in mind is that collaborating with the media is a long game. In cases of mistakes or missteps, the world generally moves on very fast — “although it may not feel like it in the moment,” Kelly adds. Within even a span of hours, the world can move from one breaking news story to the next.
With this in mind, Kelly offers some unconventional advice: “In an era where you may be tempted to say less, saying more often works out a lot better.” He explains that over the course of several conversations or interviews, CEOs tend to become more honest, authentic, and likeable, rather than solely focused on prepared talking points. By playing the long game — developing relationships with journalists and nurturing that relationship over years — you can more effectively share your nuanced insights and expertise, which can positively impact the public’s perception of you and your company.
And don’t be afraid to acknowledge negative news about your company. When you’re running a company, there are many things that are out of your control. The public is more likely to trust you and your company if you provide straightforward and honest insight.
In the end, the media is going to tell your story. You can either let them tell it for you, or you can collaborate with journalists to make sure they present an accurate picture of your company to the public. For a deeper look into business journalism and how the media can work with company leaders more effectively, listen to the full podcast episode.