PR: journalists and communicators, a lasting relationship?

The press and communication are two inseparable sectors, yet the relationships between their actors are not always obvious. Between a lack of understanding and a lack of information, the mutual trust between these professionals is often put to the test. 🙌 Therefore, the team We Are COM took a media training lesson with Veronique Faujour. Secretary General of Credit Agricole SA This business leader, with a career combining the world of the press and that of communication, recently faced the teams of Cash Investigation and questions from Elise Lucet. 

During a workshop of Club We Are COM, Véronique shared with us its feedback as well as the recipe for establishing a lasting relationship between information professionals. Journalism, communication, trust: diving into the heart of good relationship practices press and investigates the underside of the show Cash Investigation. 🎬 Let's go, action!

Press relations, do we take stock? 📌

📜 A bit of history

It would be to the publicist Ivy Lee that we owe one of the first press releases. In effect, this pioneer of the media communication is called upon by the Pennsylvania Railroad, following the derailment of a train in 1906 causing the death of about sixty passengers.Sa strategy so new? Authorize journalists to go to the scene of the tragedy and express, on behalf of the company, all its sympathy for the families of the victims in a press release published the next day by the New York Times.

The goal is, frankly and openly, on behalf of businesses and public institutions to provide the United States press and public with timely and accurate information.

Ivy Lee
ivy lee press relations

📏 A few basic rules

Before getting to the heart of the matter, the We Are COM team shares a few basic recommendations for well-conducted press relations. Who are the journalists? How are they organized? How do they work? 

press relations: journalist profession
press relations: roles in a newsroom
press relations: techniques

Press relations: word to Véronique Faujour ????

👀 Can you tell us about your experience with Cash Investigation? What was the before, the during, the after?

My first astonishment, by participating in Cash Investigation, was to observe the considerable lack of testimonials and feedback from companies that have lent themselves to the game. Internet users even advised me to do a “Cash Investigation on Cash Investigation”. 😀

Paradoxically, everyone knows this show, but no one knows what really happens there. This is why I decided to testify, by publishing a forum on LinkedIn around this experience in three stages:

  • The front : upstream is the most important phase, that of doubt. Any communicator necessarily wonders about the consequences of his participation in this program, which seems to have condemned his target in advance. But above all, we must ask ourselves about the reasons for his participation. What guided us was a fundamental desire to defend the internal.
  • The pendant : the fateful moment is quite amazing. The guest is filmed from his entry to his exit from the room where the production team is installed. As for the device, it consists mainly of capturing emotions in the face of destabilizing questions. Elise Lucet has, in this sense, a headset allowing her to receive in real time the indications of two journalists located in a second room and three cameras are systematically trained on the interviewee. They gave me a feeling of “putting on the grill”. The guest therefore has the feeling of being constantly scrutinized by the entire Cash Investigation team. 
  • The after : what comes after shooting is the most trying moment. The Cash Investigation program obeys a well-rehearsed storytelling where everything seems to argue and justify the previously defined editorial line. The guest no longer has any control, the editing is carried out in such a way as to highlight the slightest glance, doubt or moment of latency to corroborate the pre-established thesis. I would say that the bias of the editing is to move the audience.

🎯 What was the impact on the brand internally? And externally? And if we had to do it again ?

En external, I don't think the impact was huge, as the show had a fairly short lifespan. The front is the highlight, that of the rise in pressure on the Social networks, but one news chasing another, the post-issue period remains quite ephemeral.

This is internal that everything is played out in the long term. In my eyes, it is futile to try to convince the loyal audience of Cash Investigation. The objective in this participation process is above all to defend the company and all of its employees. In order to preserve the internal, we must dare to take the risk. The feedback is ultimately quite positive: even if the intervention is far from perfect, the employees are very indulgent and proud to be defended.

And if we had to do it again ? It's a question that haunts us in the days following the show. No one is ever fully satisfied with their performance, there are of course areas for improvement. Nevertheless, I would say that post-rationalization is not always constructive. 😀

It is internally that everything is played durably

☝️ How do we prepare to answer Elise Lucet? Should media training be done before responding to Cash Investigation? Should certain conditions be imposed?

We have every interest in preparing ourselves, but it is not an easy task, since no information is transmitted before the interview. It is up to the company's Communication team to try to gather as much information as possible to condition themselves as well as possible. It should be kept in mind that the principle of the show is to take its guests by surprise, which makes anticipation impossible. The interest for viewers is precisely to observe the participant unraveling and losing his means. As part of the show, the important thing is not so much what is said but rather the way in which it is said: the behavioral can betray the words.

I had convinced myself that, having nothing to hide, I would not have to justify myself. But the unexpected is part of the format and I myself was taken aback when Elise Lucet released a video dating back more than 10 years.

I would say that to prepare is also and above all to learn to get in condition and to train to remain relaxed in the face of surprise questions. As for media training, it is possible to practice beforehand by working on the tone of your speech. Raising your voice, for example, is never a good idea.

As far as the conditions are concerned, unfortunately we cannot impose any: even if you insistently request them, you will not have the right to a live broadcast, since for Cash, everything is decided in the editing.

Finally, my advice to anyone wanting to try the Cash Investigation experience is this: you're going to face the unknown, so go ahead knowingly and keep in mind that you're doing it with a purpose beforehand. well defined, the internal in our case.

The important thing is not so much what is said but rather the way in which it is said: the behavior can betray the words

🎙 Is it risky professionally and personally to be a spokesperson for your company? Who do you think are the best spokespersons?

The spokesperson inevitably takes risks and this is part of his mission. I am convinced that there really is no better spokesperson, but rather a mapping of spokespersons. Depending on the situation with which the company is confronted, the appropriate interlocutor varies: responsible for the CSR, head of a technical unit, business expert, etc.

Furthermore, I think it is crucial to be supported by its General Management in this process. It is not possible to go ahead of Cash Investigation questions otherwise.

⛔️ What do you think are the mistakes often made by communicators in the event of a conflict with a press body?

The worst mistake for a communicator would be to be a bad player. A conflict is most often temporary so, communicators, do not cut your investments in a press organ on a whim. Prefer discussion and explanation and consider advertising leverage, not as a way to support (or not) a medium, but more as a way to allow you to reach theaudience that matches your customers.

I would add that communicators quite regularly make the same mistakes when it comes to press releases. These crystallize the issue of misunderstanding between journalists and communicators. In my opinion, the blunders to avoid are the following:

  • Press releases in spades : it is not uncommon for communicators to produce indigestible press releases, in too large quantities. The journalist has neither the time nor the inclination to decipher corporate language. It would be wiser to make his job easier by sending him information consistent with his editorial line.
  • Convenience press releases : it is never advisable to produce a press release "to please" internally. Worn-out formulations irritate journalists and discredit communicators.
  • The language elements : they are counter-productive and should be banned, inducing a kind of formatting of thinking that is far too corporate. Let's take the time to rewrite things to be simple and straightforward. Let's be humble by even tackling the technical stuff.

Press releases crystallize the issue of misunderstanding between journalists and communicators

🥊 Press relations jobs are also about bringing out the real from the fake. How to fight fake news?

The fake news are a real poison for reputations and therefore for brands and their communication. The only way to avoid catastrophe is above all not to let the slightest misleading information pass, by responding immediately. It is essential to extinguish the fire, otherwise everything gets carried away too quickly, making the crisis uncontrollable. The ideal is also to anticipate by setting up ultra-vigilant social watch cells.

🤓 What are the formats and practices to be preferred in press relations? What are your tips for doing it well?

The main job of press relations is to provide accurate information to the press. This is precisely what makes it possible to establish a relationship of trust between journalists and communication. Once again, the quality of the press releases must be ensured: the journalist must be able to extract relevant information and repeat it. It is not enough to establish privileged relations with the press, it is above all a question of creating a useful relationship. You communicators have the ability to help journalists in their work. So make it easy for them and your relationship will be better for it.

My second piece of advice applies to proofreading. Most often this request is unbearable in the eyes of journalists since it concerns their pen. Of course, you have the right to proofread the quotes, but for the rest it is ultimately a question of trust with the journalist.

To finish on the formats, I would say that the press conference is a key moment, which should not however be abused. Let's reserve this rare moment, when journalists find themselves face to face with managers, at the highlights of the company's life. Finally, I am convinced that communicators today have the chance to turn to hybrid formats to present elements of the company in a lighter and more dynamic way.

It is not enough to establish privileged relations with the press, it is above all a question of creating a useful relationship

🕶 You have worked in the press for a long time, how are communicators perceived by journalists? What are the significant developments in the field?

I particularly appreciate the oxymoron “rival partners” to evoke this relationship between communicators and journalists. They often say that we absolutely do not do the same job. In effect, journalists too often perceive communicators as simple brand patriots, while in practice our ambitions are the same: to transmit information. Let's not forget, moreover, that the pure neutrality of the press is only theoretical since the media themselves have identities, editorial lines and economic realities.

As communicators, keep in mind that the journalist does not have the monopoly of the media. For a long time now, brands have developed an efficient information exploitation ecosystem, which has expanded with digital. Today, the brand has turned into a real media, with its own editorial line. At the same time, the role of brands has grown through the societal dimension: more than ever, companies have a mission in the face of environmental and social issues.

In other words, the distinction between information and communication is quite artificial. Theories aside, we need to help each other as communicators and journalists, because we need each other.

I particularly appreciate the oxymoron "rival partners" to evoke this relationship between communicators and journalists

🙏 As a business leader, what do you expect from communicators?

The communicators have immense power. However, paradoxically, this profession, which is absolutely essential, is often denigrated by society. Who has never heard this expression It's only COM "? Let's remember that brands have never needed to communicate so much. In my opinion, it is essential to rehabilitate communication by promoting its professions as well as its talents, by putting this key expertise back at the heart of the life of the company. 

For further ?

🔍 Press relations: practical cases

To go further in good practices in press relations, the We Are COM team has selected inspiring strategies.  

The best spokespersons in press relations

In general, in the field of press relations, communicators remain the privileged spokespersons of companies, like this Press officer of the Orange group which offers a report on the digital workshops conducted by the company. However, some brands dare to give voice to other expertise. It is interesting to observe that at Doctolib, it is not a communicator who speaks, but a customer service employee.

press relations: doctolib case

Crédit Agricole – an appointment with the media

The Ile-de-France bank had the good idea of ​​providing the media with a biannual real estate barometer. Not only does this allow Crédit Agricole to position itself as a leader in the sector, but also to benefit from numerous press coverage. A clever way to create a regular meeting with journalists.

press relations: agricultural credit case

La Mutualité Française – a participatory system

The Mutualité Française opts for a participatory strategy with the Place de la Santé site, to imagine the social protection of tomorrow and fuel public debate. The brand thus exposes the different points of view of presidential candidates on health issues.  

press relations: French health insurance case

Apple – a real show

It is by playing on the Keynote format that Apple has stood out for many years in the field of press relations. Since 1984, Steve Jobs has presented the brand's innovations on the occasion of press conferences broadcast and relayed around the world. The well-calibrated staging ends with "One more thing", which acts as a real media bomb by revealing the brand's next novelty.   

press relations: case apple

✅ Press relations: the fallout

Who says media communication, says press coverage. Let's not forget to attach the greatest importance to the qualitative evaluation of our press relations strategies.  

press relations: press coverage

Join the Club We Are COM 

Le Club We Are COM allows communication professionals to progress together during moments of sharing best practices only between peers, all sectors combined. Objective: an increase in collective skills in particular thanks to a workshop each month on concrete cases, responses to the major challenges of the COM, meetings with renowned experts, etc. Always exchanges in complete transparency and independence based on feedback: 0% self-promotion, 100% conviction.

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