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Many public, private, and governmental organizations have affairs that interest the media and the public. It can be beneficial to those organizations to ensure they have good lines of communication with these groups. This can be true whether they are voluntarily offering information or information is being requested from them. The person an organization employs to handle such a responsibility is often referred to as a media relations specialist.
There are many duties that may be assigned to someone who specializes in media relations. Promoting and protecting the image of the organization she works for is usually a top priority. This means she will be responsible for generating a positive image and countering negative publicity if it arises.
A media relations specialist may have to book press conferences on the organization’s behalf. This involves duties such as making popular media sources aware of the event. She may have to choose a venue and the location within that venue where the press conference will be held. She may also be responsible for overseeing preparations of promotional materials that are to be distributed or issuing passes to qualified members of the press. The media relations specialist may have to speak at the event or she may be making these preparations for a colleague such as the public relations officer.
Before another member of the organization speaks to the public, he may need to work with the media relations specialist. She may prepare a statement for him. This individual may choose to give his own remarks but rely on the media specialist to brief him or give him advice.
Sometimes it is necessary for people in an organization to relay information in a more personal manner. When this is the case, a media relations specialist may schedule interviews. These could be for television, radio, or Internet programs.
A media relations specialist typically has the responsibility of dealing with inquiries from the press or others who have questions or concerns about the organization. This may involve researching and investigating organization affairs so she can provide accurate information. When there are issues that have the potential to generate a great deal of interest, instead of waiting to be approached, a media specialist will often draft press releases that provide relevant information. She may also be responsible for having those press releases published.
She may also have the responsibility of overseeing an organization’s voice. This could involve managing the content in newsletters, magazines, or blogs. She may not be required to write everything herself, but she may be required to ensure that published correspondence meets a certain criteria and promotes a certain image.
I'd never hire a media relations specialist who hadn't worked in the media first. I think you have to know how the media operates before you can be proficient in dealing with them. You have to have a feel for why they're asking the questions they're asking so you can give them some information, but not too much, if that's necessary.
A media relations specialist who is a former member of the media has an understanding of deadlines and how to present a company's best face without looking too insincere.
Every media relations specialist starts out by writing press releases. I wish some of them knew how to write first! I've read a lot of press releases while working for a newspaper, and you can always tell the rookie PR people. Their press releases don't say much of anything. I've had to call companies about events. They sent me a press release about the event, but it didn't include the time or the place where the event would occur. That's press release 101: Who, What, When, Where, What Time and Why. Yes, I left out How. This is a press release, not a story.
A media relations specialist can make a reporter's job very easy or very difficult, and making it difficult usually doesn't help the company. It makes the reporter start wondering what the company is hiding, and that starts the reporter digging into places the company doesn't want excavated.