Attention editors and reporters! Better media relations: if you want positive coverage of your bank in the local news media, you first need to do your homework and cultivate relationships with key personnel at each newspaper and broadcast station. In other words, treat them the way you would any important customer.

Author:Kincy, Jason
Position:Media Relations

Almost every bank marketer has had the experience in which a senior manager requests that a positive stow be placed in the local newspaper--usually on the latest topic serving the interests of the bank. "Place this article in the newspaper," is what they will say.

Unfortunately, as many of us know, this isn't the way it works. Getting good media coverage for your bank can sometimes be a challenge, particularly for stories that are not the media's idea. Wouldn't it be great if you actually had the ability to deliver on this request?

While there's no magic way to ensure placement of positive media coverage, there is one often overlooked strategy that can put you in the best possible position to get your bank's message in front of the right media decision-makers: Build a relationship and two-way dialogue between your bank and key media outlets in your community. To accomplish this, you need to take a page from the book about how bankers build relationships with their customers. This involves getting to know the customers, uncovering their needs and helping them to meet those needs.

Several years ago our bank realized that not only were we not getting the positive benefit of good public relations coverage, but we actually were suffering from our lack of communication with media outlets. During one particular summer there was a string of articles featuring new banks in the area, their management and their projects, all the while no mention of our activities. It didn't take long for us to realize that not only were we being left out of the banking conversation by local media, but that it was our own fault. Until that point the bank usually did not respond to media inquiries, didn't offer experts to help writers on specific topics and often would provide the dreaded "no comment" response. Our bank was viewed as not media-friendly and we were experiencing the results.

Our bank leadership made an important strategic decision to become a part of the conversation. Our immediate goals were simple: to respond more openly to media requests and to generate more positive media about the bank. We knew it was very important to rethink and retool our PR and media strategies--foremost among them was the need to build relationships with the media itself.

Be committed to a quality relationship

As Arrest transitioned from a relatively media-quiet organization into one that wanted to leverage media coverage, the bank felt that it was important for the marketing department and executive team to be aligned in regard to the overall plan and expectations. To this end, marketing and senior management held meetings to ensure a unified set of objectives and more importantly some key points of agreement on working with the media. The short-term objective was to build some media relationships and to have some positive stories written about the bank in order to more effectively tell the bank's story. Other tenets the two groups felt were important in working with the media:

* The bank's core value of honest and open communication would also apply to media relations; bank managers wanted to become a trustworthy partner with media contacts.

* The bank saw its responsibility to respond quickly to any media enquiries and to assist the media in meeting their deadlines.

* All media contact would flow through authorized bank staff so it could be handled properly and responded to quickly.

* A third-party public relations partner would be necessary to help the bank improve the effectiveness of its public relations and media relations plans.

* Media opportunities that did not enhance the bank, the brand or assist customers would not be viewed as viable opportunities.

* The bank would observe all laws protecting the privacy of its associates and customers.

With agreement in these key areas, managers have been able to use them as reference points over the past few years to make sure the bank was staying on track with its objectives and managing relationships properly. As when dealing with customers, the bank felt it was very important to protect the bank's reputation when dealing with the media. By establishing internal guidelines and consistently adhering to them, your bank will build a reputation as a credible source for local media.

What results should you expect?

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