Press Relations

Picture this. You’re a professional working in communications. One morning, your organization makes the front page or Margaret Wente’s column for all the wrong reasons.

You bust your butt to get your side of the story across, set the facts straight, and extricate your organization from the crisis.

Everybody is shaken by the experience. Your bosses are extremely nervous.

In this situation, would you dare to measure the impact of all this negative coverage on your organization?

As I’m sure you know, good news rarely makes headlines.

I am convinced, for instance, that the staff at Collège Brébeuf, a prestigious Montreal private school, does inspiring—even innovative—work to encourage their students to excel. Unfortunately, such laudable initiatives will never be enough to lead the six o’clock news.

Yet, when Collège Brébeuf fired a theater teacher—whether it was justified or not is beside the point—the story made headlines and the school’s reputation took a serious hit. That’s how the media machine works!

To fear or not to fear?

When this type of situation happens to our clients, they ask us to measure the effects of the negative media coverage on their organization. They want to know—and rightly so—whether their handling of the coverage has helped calm the storm, or added fuel to the fire.

But some communications professionals are reluctant to analyze negative news. After all, nobody likes to receive a report card peppered with D’s in school!

Media analysis is different from a report card!

Here are five reasons for analyzing negative press:

  • Distance. What if it turns out the coverage wasn’t so negative after all? An external, independent observer can help put things in perspective—and reassure management.
  • Score. A firm specialized in media analysis can determine the negative brand impact in dollars. It’s important to use a method that is easy to understand for all types of organizations.
  • Confirmation. Did the current media strategy turn the tide?
  • Distinction. A detailed analysis of the content of media coverage helps to distinguish the impact of each issue, which is essential for rehabilitating an organization’s battered reputation.
  • Clarity. Which issues would it be appropriate to put forward during the media operations following the crisis?

Media analysis is a valuable management tool, even when media coverage is negative.

Why? Because it helps you keep track of the facts and fine-tune what is or isn’t working in your communications.

Back to the Collège Brébeuf case

The private school did not renew the contract of a drama teacher because she had appeared nude in a number of films some 50 years earlier. Some enterprising students had come across certain scenes featuring their drama teacher that were considered “erotic” for the time. And a scandal was born!

  • Let’s use a negative news item, published on page 7 of Le Journal de Montréal on Tuesday, October 20 2014. This article represented a brand impact of -$41,420* for Collège Brébeuf, according to our mesure [d]  media evaluation tool

Collège Brébeuf’s administration issued a press release in response to the crisis suggesting that they were open to the teacher’s return.

  • In the wake of the release, Collège Brébeuf director Michel April gave FM 98.5 radio host Paul Arcand an interview. Insofar as the interview didn’t go too badly, it had a positive brand impact of $11,960 * for the school.

Had it not been for the terrible attack in Ottawa later that day, Brébeuf’s director would no doubt have given more interviews. In spite of everything, did Brébeuf do enough to re-establish its reputation in this affair?

* Clarification: After determining the non-negotiated advertising costs of media coverage, mesure [d] evaluates certain variables in order to determine its positive or negative brand impact (in dollars) using a number of weighted quantitative and qualitative criteria, including journalistic treatment and graphic and visual elements. Mesure [d] has helped organizations and brands since 1994.

Photo journalist
This question may seem preposterous or even insulting to my former journalist colleagues. Yet, our media analysis clients ask it frequently.
If you think about it, the question isn’t all that surprising. Numerous events and organizations, especially tourism bureaus, regularly invite local and foreign journalists so they will report on their event, product, or company.
 The goal is obvious: to have journalists return home and report in their respective media on their fabulous experience in Montreal, Quebec City, or the Gaspé Peninsula. Who knows? They might just convince their readers or audience to come visit Quebec.
Even when they cover the costs for such stays, organizations have no guarantee that the reports will be to their liking. It’s a roll of the dice—but it often pays off!
 The practice is also common in the movie industry. Film journalists often go on sponsored trips to meet the stars and directors of upcoming releases. These are known in the business as “press junkets.”
Similar approaches are used in other industries, too. One year before its arrival in Canada, for example, Target invited Canadian journalists to meet with senior management at one of its flagship stores in the Chicago area.

Enhancing your credibility and reputation

Of course, organizations can always buy advertising space and use some of it for advertorials, but the results are incomplete at best.

The value added that journalists and bloggers provide is always the same: their credibility and sphere of influence.

Organizations hope to gain credibility and enhance their reputations thanks to coverage obtained through traditional and social media. This is why more and more clients are keen on measuring their return on investment for media relations, leading to the “brutal” question at the beginning of this post: “How much do journalists cost and what’s the ROI?

In other words, organizations in every field want to know what the dollar impact of their media relations campaigns is. Many measurement tools simply give the equivalent cost if the advertising space or airtime had been purchased and measure the general tone; some generate scores in millions of impressions (an approach that is associated more with marketing than public relations).

More than ever, organizations need quantitative and qualitative data that goes beyond superficial measurement to provide real meaning for public relations managers.

From titles, visuals, quotes, and insets to journalistic treatment, journalists’ influence, position in the media, and the influence of opponents in the report—there are more than 23 variables that can be analyzed.

Montreal’s influence abroad

Let’s take the example of a report from last July on the France 24 network. How much is this feature worth for Montreal’s brand and the Montreal International Jazz Festival? Let’s look beyond the advertising cost of this 15-minute report. Considering the very positive images of Montreal, the affirmative tone, and the numerous jazz stars featured, the report is worth a lot more than the cost of the equivalent in ad time. On its own, this coverage represents a $93,490* gain for Montreal’s brand and the Jazz Festival.

In short, analyzing media coverage to measure positive (or negative) brand impact helps your organizations manage its media relations investments better, particularly when foreign journalists are involved!

* Clarification: After determining the non-negotiated advertising costs of media coverage, mesure [d] evaluates certain variables in order to determine its positive or negative brand impact (in dollars) using a number of weighted quantitative and qualitative criteria, including journalistic treatment and graphic and visual elements. Mesure [d] has helped organizations and brands since 1994.