“At ITPS…Fun is a SERIOUS Business! 

Communicating with the Media
by:  Dennis Speigel

Every season, leisure facilities from around the world have promotions, incidents, announcements and events that are reported by the media. With such a great deal of information out there - how do you get noticed? How do you insure that the information circulating about your facility is accurate? How do you respond to the media after an incident?

These questions remind those of us in the leisure industry how absolutely necessary it is to have a solid communication plan ready and how important it is to work with the media in the event of some type of business issue which needs immediate attention.

Over the next several weeks in the ITPS Amusement INdustry News, I will be providing you with information which you should find helpful in working with media. The articles will include the following:

• “Understanding the Media”
• “Keys to Success for Working with the Media”
• “Reporter Rapport”
• “Getting the Media’s Attention”
• “Editorial Briefings”
• “Working with Television”
• “Appearing on Television”
• “Working with Radio”
• “Online Media”
• “Final Tips”

Who is the media? Traditionally, media includes, newspapers, television and magazines - but today, the media includes all of these, plus, Facebookers, Twitterers, bloggers, amateur photographers your guests and the general public.

1:  "Understanding the Media"

The first step in developing an effective relationship with the media is having an excellent understanding of the media. In short, who is the media?

There are essentially two different types of media: general media and trade-specific media. General media publications are local, regional, or national publications which cover specific interests defined by the editorial content of the publication. Trade publications target specific business sectors or a particular industry.

Traditionally, television and radio media fall into the general or “consumer” category; however, over the years, numerous topic-specific channels and stations have been developed which cover particular topics such as sports, business-only news, food, etc.

Print media also falls into the two categories listed above with local papers filling a more general niche and larger more specialized magazines catering to specific topics or industries.

Another form of media that has become very wide-spread is the internet. It seems as if most every media outlet uses the internet as an avenue for distributing information and news stories. From live breaking news video updates from local news channels to story showcases from the world’s leading news providers, the public has the most current and up-to-date news at their fingertips.

The media plays a critical role in framing the impression we want to communicate to the general public or to a specifically targeted audience as they collect, package and develop news or information of any type. There is a great deal that you, as an operator or manufacturer (or for that fact, our global organization the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, “IAAPA”), can do to make sure that the media positively portrays your message.

Each media organization is staffed in part by reporters who are typically paid to collect information from various sources, digest it, and reconstruct it in a manner that they believe best communicates a complete “story”. That story is then packaged in the appropriate format for the respective medium – for example, a news article or a broadcast segment that is then delivered to the readers, viewers, or listeners.

When working with the media, it is in your best interest to deliver your story to a reporter in a manner that can be easily digested and is prepared for delivery to that reporter’s audience. The less re-working that has to be done by the reporter or the publication’s editorial staff will help to maintain the integrity, focus, and objective of your story. The more often that you provide a reporter with information that they can use effectively, the more likely they are to ask for your help with future stories. Remember; always be honest and timely when dealing with the media. If you do not know the answer to a question, explain that you are researching the issue and will be back in touch as soon as you have the proper information.

By responding promptly, providing quality information, and meeting a reporter’s deadlines, you will gradually develop yourself as a credible source. Becoming credible in the media is essential when trying to tell your side of the story. For example, if you have a crisis at your facility and a reporter who you have worked with for years (on publicity events, small incidents at the park, human interest stories, etc.) is assigned to cover the crisis, they are more likely to be sympathetic to you, the facility, and the crisis than they would be to a facility that they have not worked with in the past.

In light of this example, the ultimate goal when dealing with the media is to establish yourself as a “source”. Reporters rely on a network of credible sources to provide information for the stories that they are investigating. Once you become a source or direct them to a credible source, such as the IAAPA, you will be contacted more frequently with regard to your area of expertise. This affords you the opportunity to get your message across when necessary (i.e., in a crisis situation).

Additionally, the IAAPA is in a position to act as a credible source for all industry-related inquiries. The association has a tremendous amount of information to share when approached by the media and all IAAPA members should feel free to refer media inquiries to IAAPA’s Public Relations Department. As a reminder, during a crisis, IAAPA members should remember to contact the IAAPA Public Relations Department so that the association can respond appropriately and intelligibly when contacted by the media.

As in any relationship that is based on trust, working with the media takes time, patience, and direct information. Becoming a source is a long process and often takes years to accomplish. Becoming a source can best be accomplished by making yourself, your association, and the IAAPA information available to the media personnel covering this industry.

Finally, be proud of your facility, your company, your industry, and the IAAPA. Through working with the media, we are able to tell the world about the positive side of the amusement industry.  

2:  “Keys to Success for Working with the Media"

One of the first and most strategic factors to consider when working with the media is: know where the reporter is coming from. What is the goal and objective of the story? Many reporters have simply been handed the assignment by a superior and have no personal interest in the issue other than completing their assignment. All too often, many people affected by the story (either positively or negatively), assume that a reporter understands why their news or a particular development is interesting. Typically, all a reporter wants to know is: what happened? What will change? How will it impact the guests? And, how will it affect the industry?

Similar to interactions in personal situations, when working with the media, it is important to be polite. If possible, establish a personal relationship with the reporter. After your first meeting or conversation, keep in touch to help yourself and the reporter stay abreast of new developments. Overall, be informative and accurate, always striving to be truthful. Avoid making statements that cannot be supported with facts. Above all, never be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. If you make an error, correct it. Very few reporters will expect you to be an “expert”. It is far more impressive and worthwhile to a reporter for you to admit that you don’t know something and will get back to him / her with the correct information.

Always be consistent. If you use a statistic once, do not contradict it later. Do not allow yourself to be placed in a situation of making comments that you will later regret.

Help direct the interview. Look for opportunities to create flow and direction in the interview that will help you get your point across. Instead of waiting for the reporter to ask you about your best points, as you finish a question, go on to another subject focusing on the point or issue that you want to be included in the story.

Be quotable. Ensure that your perspective gets in the story by giving the reporter an irresistible quote. Think about “quotability” before the interview and prepare the perfect line. Remember, these days, the media (especially the electronic media), works in sound bytes. They are looking for you to give them a “gem” to use in the story. Make sure the quote strikes the issue important to you or your industry. Always be alert, using anecdotes and personalities to demonstrate a point. Don’t be afraid of conflict.

Responsiveness is extremely important. Remember to supply promised information in a timely manner. Print deadlines must be met. Not meeting deadlines means missing a hard-earned opportunity...a cardinal sin when dealing in the area of public relations.

Be upbeat in your interview. Utilize every opportunity to make a positive point. For example, if asked to disparage your competition, do not question the competitor’s motives. Rather you may question the effectiveness of the competition’s approach or suggest that the facts are not as they are presented.

When possible, give numbers. The media likes to use quantifiable data. Quantify as much as you possibly can and always correct errors in your story. While it is unwise to quibble over minor typos, it is imperative to point out major errors through a courteous phone call, a written acknowledgement or a personal meeting with the reporter or editors.

Follow-ups can also work to your advantage. Consider ways to provide a follow-up to any interview or news story. Always keep in mind points that particularly interested the interviewer / reporter. Send detailed information on those points to the reporter after the interview.

Remember too, that you can certainly use news to create news. Try to relate your story to the current news. Be alert to seasonal or related events that present you with an opportunity to accurately tell your side of the story.

When working with the media, remember, all publications and stories have a deadline and sudden changes in a schedule can result in your interview being unavoidably cancelled or delayed. If this happens, your graciousness will be remembered in the future - helping your information reach the desk rather than hit the trashcan.

3.  “Reporter Rapport”

It is imperative to discuss the importance of establishing rapport with reporters early-on in the working process.

You and the reporter have basically the same goal - accurate and timely communication of information. However, the motives are usually different. You both want to tell a story but your stories are not always going to be the same. When the stories are the same, accomplishing the goal is easy. When the stories are different, your goal is tougher to achieve because the reporter is ultimately the communicator. However, your goal can still be reached as long as you maintain your perspective on the story.

When confronted by a reporter who does not share your perspective on a story, do not view this to be an unfounded bias against you. Rather, understand the reporter’s needs and do your best to satisfy them. Provide as much of the requested information as you can without compromising your story. Then, persuade the reporter to consider your side of the issue.

As I have stated, the news medium is comprised of individuals who have a job or assignment to do. They have individual biases, as we all do, but you will find the vast majority to be reasonable and receptive.

Good reporters ask good questions. Don’t be offended if a reporter seems aggressive and probing, as the best reporters can be tough and challenging. They may even play devil’s advocate and disagree with you just to challenge your perspective. As a spokesperson for your park or company, your responsibility is to stick with your message. You will find working with news media much easier if you understand that asking tough questions is just part of their job. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW THEM TO MAKE YOU ANGRY.

News people seldom have time to research a subject in as much detail as they would like. Instead, they depend on you to work with them in getting the whole picture.

Many reporters are skeptical - by training if not by nature - so accept it. Your part of the equation is to supply useful, accurate and meaningful data without losing sight of your point-of-view.

The success of your approach largely depends upon your ability to understand your role as well as the relationship between you and the reporter.

The type of story a reporter is writing will dictate how the information you provide will be used. For example, a reporter writing a feature on amusement park entertainment is likely to use your quotes in a different way than a reporter who is looking for background on a breaking news story about a park incident.

The types of stories you are most likely to be contacted for are:

• Feature Articles;
• Editorial Opinions;
• Background or “outlook” articles;
• Industry Round-ups / Trends;
• Profiles / Spokesperson Interviews;
• Photographic / Graphic / Illustrative pieces;
• Hard Core News Stories; and
• Local Angle to National Stories

Each story type has its own distinct personality and purpose. Familiarize yourself with each type of story by reading examples in the current press. Then, when a reporter tells you the type of story he or she is writing, you will have a better idea of how the information you provide will be used. Always do your homework about a topic and, if possible, the reporter.

The following are the reporter types:

• Machine Gunner

The machine gunner barrages you with questions, which often become more negative as he or she develops a point of view. Listen to the questions. Then choose one – often the first – which leads you directly to your message points. Leave more negative questions for later. They may not be asked again, but if they are, you’ll have heard them before and be able to address them according to the positive story you’ve begun to tell. Don’t give control back to the reporter by asking which of all the questions the reporter wants answered. Chances are good he or she will use the toughest one of all.

• Interrupter

This reporter steps on your story by interrupting you. You have rights with the press – exercise them. Graciously acknowledge the interrupter, but return to and finish the points you were making. If you sense that the reason for the reporter’s interruptions stem from excitement about your story, you may choose to elaborate more fully on those questions. Be careful, however. Your answers might be too long or unfocused which could be the reason for the interruption.

• Paraphraser

Reporters paraphrase to make certain they understand what you are saying. They are looking for summary statements that put your story, points or perceptions in a nutshell. In addition, they may be trying to challenge you by presenting a different perspective on what you’ve been saying. Don’t let reporters put words in your mouth. Listen for paraphrasing clues: “So what you’re saying is…”; “In other words…”; “So in summary…”; “It sounds to me as if…”. Listen to paraphrases carefully. Since paraphrases may be attributed to you, restate even those paraphrases that you think are good summaries of your story, this way, the quote will be in your own words.

• Dart Thrower

The contentious “dart thrower” reporter uses negativity to dislodge interesting quotes from you and (in a sense) break down your story. You must deal with this person in a “kind-loving” manner and avoid responding in a negative tone that matches the reporter’s. Above all, avoid repeating the negative language the reporter introduces in the conversation. A denial of an off-putting idea or statement puts a negative spin on what you’re saying, and that pessimism is very quotable.

Try to determine the type of reporter with whom you are interfacing early on in the working process. Once you have done this, it will be much easier to move forward with your responses.

4.  “Getting the Media’s Attention”

A prime goal of every member of the IAAPA should be to win editorial support and positive news treatment of your facility’s objectives and messages. To do this, you must first get the media’s attention. As stated earlier in our series of articles, one way is to build rapport and maintain contact with reporters in your market and industry publications. Be sure you always respond to their requests in a timely manner. There are ways you can be more assertive in building a strong relationship with the press. For example, a good way to build a relationship is to talk with them even when there is no specific story to talk about. By calling members of the press just to “touch base” or to talk, you demonstrate your accessibility. If the media knows you are accessible, they will be more likely to contact you in the event a media story is developing.

When reporters call you, you’ve become a “source” – a direct result of establishing mutual trust. With mutual trust, you avoid situations where stories appear to ignore your side of the issue simply because reports did not know: (1) that your organization existed; (2) you or your industry had a position on the issue; and/or; (3) you or your industry would be affected by the issue.

One of the most effective ways to become a “source” is to meet with reporters and editors for an editorial background. The techniques of conducting an editorial backgound also applies to feature or news interviews.

In working with the media, the most important thing to remember is deadlines. Do not call to touch base when a reporter is on a deadline and remember, when you have a story to tell, don’t tell it to a reporter after the deadline. Industry statements have the greatest impact on the day a major story breaks. A day’s lag dilutes much of the impact of your organization’s statement.

Armed with an understanding of how the media works, you are in a position to disseminate your messages to them.

As a member of a highly visible industry, you may be participating in a variety of pro-active and reactive situations including one-on-one interviews with print and broadcast press, press conferences and speeches. To garner positive coverage of your issues, consider producing materials and events that will pique the interest of reporters and editors.

The basic elements in your arsenal will include the following:

Media advisory. A media advisory is a document, generally one page long, that alerts the media to an event such as a press conference or the release of a report.

Press releases. A press release is a document that announces a news items in a news story format. It is written in such a manner that if it were reporter verbatim, it would tell your story precisely the way you wanted it told.

Fact sheet. Fact sheets are just that – concise documents that isolate and explain the individual developments of your facility.

Backgrounders. A backgrounder is a lengthy, detailed document that tells the story of an issue or event in a broad context, tying all the relative historical, political or legislative factors that shaped it, and positioning it as topical and newsworthy.

Letter to the Editor. Letter to the editor is a means of positioning your perspective on an issue in a credible public media forum - the letter page of a newspaper or periodical.

Op-Eds. An Op-ed is written to position your opinion on the editorial page of a newspaper or periodical.

Press conferences and media tours are the most commonly organized media events. Planned in advance and communicated to the media in a way that lets them know you have something newsworthy to announce will insure you a positive turnout for the tour or press conference.

With a well-established line of communication in place with your local and industry media, you should be able to get their attention when you require it.

5.  “Editorial Briefings”

If the opportunity to meet with a publication’s editorial department avails itself to you, you must be prepared to take advantage of the situation.

Prior to meeting with a publication’s editorial staff, you should help to prepare them for the topics you wish to discuss by sending them materials in advance of the meeting. These materials will help them to better understand your area of expertise and the relevance that your information has on current news stories or industry performance. This preparation prior to your meeting is very important because of the fact that many topics are multi-faceted and therefore become very difficult to cover in a manageable time period.

An important aspect of your meeting is to keep your presentation of materials and insights as short as possible. It is very easy to lose effectiveness if you talk too long while presenting your topics or if you fail to give the reporter or editor time to ask questions.

Depending on the knowledge of the reporters or editors, the topics to be affected can either be listed or discussed. At this point, ask what the editors want to know, what they expect, or what will be helpful to them. They will appreciate your willingness to communicate.

Some important items to remember when participating in an editorial meeting are:

Take a low-key approach.

Be conservative.

Give the reporter time to settle in.

Initially, approach your subject on a non-technical level.

Identify the editor’s specific area of interest and expand upon that particular topic.

The order of progression in a meeting of this type is also very important. First of all, state why you are there. Next, try to establish a dialogue and make sure that you listen carefully to those with whom you are meeting when they contribute to the discussion. Remember the common issue that we have stressed in this series of articles is communication and establishing relationships.

Some definite items to avoid:

Don’t point your finger or speak in a loud voice. This can be perceived as very over-bearing.

Don’t interrupt others while they are speaking or take part in a side conversation.

Don’t dominate the entire presentation. Be aware that others are there to be heard and their questions/issues should also be aired.

Don’t answer too quickly. This leaves the impression that you are giving a canned, or staged, presentation. After a question, first give yourself time to think and see if your initial impression of the question’s intent was correct. If you answer too quickly, you may not even address their particular question. Just waiting a second or two before answering helps to avoid the appearance of a canned impression.

Don’t use the phrase “You’ve got to understand…” This phrase sounds very overbearing and can give the wrong impression.

Don’t tape editorial meetings.

Don’t be late for editorial meetings.

Remember, newspaper and periodical journalists are very busy people who are constantly moving from one story topic to another in a short period of time. Your goal should be to present yourself in a succinct and organized manner. The more prepared and organized you are when dealing with journalists will help you get your information in print.

6.  “Working With Television”

The most predominant form of media we encounter is television. It is important, paramount to you and your business, that you and your management team understand how to interface with this medium.

News Division:

The News director and producer determine what is to be covered in coordination with the assignment editor. The assignment editor is the primary contact for news; the producer is the primary contact for feature shows. There is a weekend staff, as well as an after 7 p.m. staff. The weekend evening shifts make assignments and news decisions for their segments.

News reporters are looking for action/conflict in the story. The evening news is drama—visual and moving. Television news reporters also look for the local angle to the national story of the day. Primarily, television news is presented in 30-second segments. There is usually not time to “background” the reporter.

Keep in mind that news reporters have a maximum of three hours to spend on the average story--most of the time far less, including the time required for taping the story. This produces only a couple of minutes on the air and boils down to around 30 seconds for a spokesperson to tell his/her story.

Whether taped or live, interviews can be conducted in the television studio, in your office, before or after a speech, and even in the parking lot outside of the television station.

News interviews or segments are short and to the point. Frequently, you will be asked to remain on camera while other angles are shot for later insertion into the interview, showing the reporter listening, nodding, etc. This is called “cutaway” or “reversal” shots.

Interview/Talk Shows:

The “host”, who frequently is not the person who produces the show or schedules the guests, has an “image” or personality as either a nice person or a controversial one. There will usually be a representative from the opposition (in the U.S.A. this meets FCC requirements for equal time). Sometimes you are even asked to suggest a representative from the other side. Subject matter for these shows is usually local, or the local angle to a national story, unless you are on a national show or national cable network.

Documentaries:

These programs present in-depth coverage of an issue. Formats range from light appraisal such as of “PM Magazine” to the more serious look of CNN. Months of preparation can be involved in the preparation of a documentary.

Panel Call-In Shows:

These shows provide opportunities for more in-depth coverage of your issues. These shows are usually less glamorous and tend to be more localized. Often transcripts of the broadcast are made available to the viewers.

Cable:

Cable television growth has produced a second system of locally, regionally, and nationally produced programs, particularly in the U.S.A. This is a medium that continues to grow throughout the world and needs to be understood by those who come in contact with it. It is important to remember that most local cable systems do not produce their own programming; however, there are a few with local access availability, and more will probably appear in the future. As this area grows, the chances for being asked to be interviewed will increase as well.

7.  “Appearing on Television”

The medium of television provides a forum for communicating with an audience unlike any other form of communication available to our industry. If the opportunity arises to appear on television, it is essential that you are properly prepared.

Overall, the key to portraying a positive image on television is confidence. If you appear that you are not confident in the subject matter or with the answers that you are giving, your message will be lost. Anticipate as many questions as possible and answer them immediately. When asked an uncomfortable question, many people use a process known as “bridging” where they answer the questions quickly and then immediately mention a positive point regarding the subject. In order to use this technique effectively, it may be necessary to prepare a simple list of the negative questions you may be asked and then develop a positive aspect of the subject which you can highlight. Afterwards, think about how you can bridge from the negative to the positive. It is important to remember that while using the bridging technique, you should always answer the question posed prior to moving on to your positive statement. If you do not answer the question, you are inviting the interviewer to ask the question again or to have them point out that you avoided the issue. The following are some simple techniques to ensure that you are prepared for your television appearance.

Set you objectives – Develop a few mini-speeches which you can bridge into if the opportunity presents itself.

Rehearse – Rehearse your remarks but do not rehearse them too much or they will sound canned. Try developing a list of keywords to use that will help make your point.

Visuals – If you choose to use visuals, check with the show’s producer and director beforehand to ensure that you bring the appropriate size image and that the color and tone contrast is in line with the show.

Study your audience – The channel that you appear on, the time of day that the show will be aired, and the attitude of the audience all have a major impact on the reception that you will receive. Consider your audience carefully and be certain that your remarks are planned accordingly.

Be specific – Do not make general overviews. Determine specific examples ahead of time and use them to illustrate your major points. Use any available statistics, but only if you can make them meaningful to the audience.

Determine the topics to be covered – If possible, determine if the interviewer is interested in an opinion from the “industry” or on specific policies or philosophies regarding your company. Through discussions with the show’s producer and director, you should be able to get a good grasp on the direction of the interview and the major topics to be covered.

Watch other television interviews to become familiar with how questions are asked by interviewers and what answers are effective.

During the interview, it is essential that you conduct yourself properly. The following tips will help you to ensure that you present your message in the most effective manner possible.

Appear as natural as possible

Be lively and animated

Sit or stand up straight

Look directly at the reporter asking the question (not the monitor, cameraman, or director)

Do not cross your arms or fidget

Never smoke or chew gum during an interview

Smile only at humor, never at a serious question

Stay calm. Do not get angry or challenge the interviewer

Relax

Refer to the interviewer by name

Typically, short answers are more effective than long answers

Never respond to a question with “no comment”. Explain the reason why you cannot answer (i.e., the incident is still under investigation).

Never assume that you are finished until told by the production staff.

Be prepared when the show begins. You should not consider the first part of the interview as a warm-up; be prepared immediately for the first question.

Be on time for your interview. Allowing yourself enough time will let you prepare mentally and physically for the interview and will improve your presentation considerably.

Be confident, not scared.

Hopefully the above suggestions will help you to prepare for and conduct a successful television appearance. 

8.  “Working With Radio”

Typically, radio stations and radio news programs vary greatly from television stations in both format and staff size. The type of station format has a direct impact on the type of news that will be covered.

While most radio stations only provide news headlines and quick summary stories, almost every large radio market throughout the US now has at least one all-news or all-talk station. Unlike traditional music stations, this format usually allows for in-depth coverage of various news topics and often promotes and encourages call-in guests to discuss the issues with radio hosts. Many times, the host will also invite a guest “expert” to be on the show and therefore allow the “expert” to field the questions from callers. The following are some items to remember when dealing with this type of medium:

In all situations, it is best to remain calm and speak frankly.

Radio call-in shows tend to attract callers who are unsympathetic to industry problems. Try to keep your answers simple and understandable to the general public.

Feel free to bring along a list of the most important points that you want to make while on the air. It is very important that you do not rustle the papers at any time during the interview as radio microphones may pick up this noise.

Pay close attention to the true question that the caller is making. Do not get off-track by trying to respond to a caller’s attitude or tone of voice. Simply answer the question.

Many callers are not completely comfortable speaking on the radio and therefore their actual question may be surrounded by rhetoric or opinion phrases. It is often a good idea to rephrase the question for the remainder of the listeners prior to giving your answer.

Many listeners tune in to a broadcast in the middle or even toward the end of an interview. Be certain to answer each question completely, even if the issue has already been covered previously in the interview. If you are regularly repeating yourself, feel free to summarize previous answers by using phrases such as, “as we mentioned earlier…” or “again, I believe…”

Determine prior to the interview if anybody else has been asked to be on the show with you. If another person will also be interviewed, attempt to establish some ground rules with the host and the other guest, before the interview begins. Simply request that both sides have equal time to answer questions. Additionally, feel free to make notes while your opponent is talking so that you may tailor your answers accordingly.

Many talk-show radio hosts have built audiences and popularity around their own personalities. Often, these personalities are highly aggressive and callers appreciate the role that they play as devil’s advocate. Remain calm and try to work together with the host. Do not, however, be afraid to disagree with a statement that is incorrect.

On talk shows, repeat your best arguments often. This will help listeners to better understand the points that you are trying to make.

Some general items to remember when dealing with the radio include:

Radio news gets old very fast. While the gap is closing, often news stories are covered much earlier on radio, prior to be presented on television. Therefore, if you want your side of a story told, you may need to prompt your local station. This may include calling the news department and offering to give a telephone interview.

In many smaller stations, the news departments are not staffed after 6:00 p.m. in the evening. If you need to reach them after hours, you may need to call the direct news telephone number. Be sure to have those numbers on hand.

The news department of any station is busiest around the hour and half-hour, as well as during the morning and evening rush hour. Try not to bother them during these periods.

Radio is spontaneous. Occasionally, radio producers will call sources and ask if they would care to comment on the subject being discussed. In this situation, you may have limited time to prepare. Simply speak in a normal voice and focus on making two or three key points.

I hope that the above reminders and tips help to prepare you for your next appearance on a radio show. Remember, being honest and well prepared are the keys to appearing credible and getting your points across. 

9.  “Online Media"

Over the last decade, the online community has grown exponentially. Included within this community are media outlets, social networking sites, fan sites and blogs - all of which play a prominent role in the transmission of information pertaining to the leisure industry. It is vitally important to understand how these entities function in order to stay abreast to the ever - changing way that people receive and interpret information about the industry.
You would be hard pressed to find a newspaper, magazine or television news program that does not have some form of communication online. Whether through articles, polls, opinion columns or reviews, there are numerous ways in which these media outlets can present information.

Many times, the information you find on these particular sites is very similar - if not the same - as the information found in print or on scheduled news broadcasts. However, the online information is constantly updated, rewritten or changed, meaning it is current and up-to-date for readers.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have exploded onto the internet. Many media outlets as well as individual attractions are taking advantage of these free services, often using them for promotions and advertising space. Individual users of these sites often post pictures and stories about their visits to local and destination attractions - all of which are uncensored.

Another online phenomenon is YouTube. YouTube is a free site that lets members upload videos for public viewing. With the widespread use of cellular phones that have video and internet capabilities, many videos are uploaded as soon as they are recorded - including videos of sensitive content such as injuries, accidents and crisis’.

Fan sites and blogs are sites that are run by individual attractions, media outlets, or just average citizens looking to share their stories and thoughts about leisure facilities. Just as with most online media, fan sites are often uncensored and can contain (both good and bad) information, stories and photos pertaining to your facility.
In all, these sites can be good or bad for your facility. The key is to embrace these current, popular forms of communication and use them to your advantage.

By creating a Facebook, MySpace or Twitter account, you can accumulate ‘followers’ or ‘fans’ and post promotions, events and guest challenges.

By browsing YouTube, you can monitor the types of items your guests are posting. While you may not be able to remove videos, you can use them as a learning tool to improve the cleanliness of your facility, your guest service practices or safety and security issues.

A great way to promote your facility is to let your guests do it for you. By creating a fan site, guests can post pictures and stories about their trip. The positive aspect of a fan site is that you can monitor and control the information that is being shown. You are able to sensor member’s posts and remove profanity, inappropriate pictures or offensive material.

While you will never be able to control everything that is on the internet, you can contribute to the positive “press” of your facility by using the above mentioned sites and applications to promote and present a positive image for your facility. 

Final Tips

Well, at long last, we have come to the conclusion of this weekly feature on dealing with the media. Having discussed numerous topics, I feel that a quick summary would be helpful for everyone. Therefore, the following are some helpful hints to remember, some of these may be familiar but I believe that these are the most important points to keep in mind when dealing with the media:

• Be prepared – Before entering into any type of interview situation, plan ahead. Know who is conducting the interview, the style of the interviewer, the angle of the story, and the interview format. Always make certain that the interviewer has the correct spelling of your name and your proper title. Always be prepared to provide a written or verbal background to the reporter.

• Define your message – Communicate the message that you want to be remembered. Develop three or four major points and repeat them throughout the course of the interview. This will help you get your message across and will help you avoid discussing areas for which you have not prepared. If desired, bring index cards with basic facts or catch phrases written on them to help remind you of your objective.

• Control the interview – First of all, remain in control throughout the interview. If you do not do this, it may be possible for the interviewer to put “words in your mouth.” Anticipate questions that are going to be asked and prepare responses. Be certain to answer the reporter’s questions but try to switch to your chosen topics whenever possible. This will help you to remain on track and to make certain that your points come across.

• Answer with a headline – Try to structure your answers by always responding with a “headline” or catch phrase that you want people to remember. Afterwards, begin discussing the facts that support your “headline.” This method of answering questions helps to ensure that your most important statements are heard regardless of whether or not you are interrupted.

• Negative to positive – When being interviewed, you will often be able to anticipate a negative question because the interviewer will begin the question by making an untrue statement. Often, the question following this false statement is negative or meant to discredit you as an expert. Before answering the question, immediately point out the inaccuracies of the original statement and neutralize the negative with a simple fact that people can easily understand and then bridge to positive topic.

• Protect your weak spot – Anticipate your weak areas and plan accordingly. When you are being verbally attacked, make a brief honest response to the attack and immediately bridge to another more positive topic. Try to keep the interviewer from interrupting with additional accusing questions by moving on to a more positive topic.

• Be honest – Even a small misstatement can destroy your credibility and become a major problem for you and your organization. If you accidentally make an incorrect statement, immediately stop and re-clarify yourself. If you do not know the answer to a particular question, do not make up an answer, simply tell the reporter that you do not know but will check with the appropriate source. Always be certain to follow-up with the interviewer with the correct answer.

• Keep it simple – Avoid technical language and try to keep your statements simple. Always keep in mind that the average viewer / listener is not necessarily well versed in your area of expertise. When possible, keep your answers short and basic.

• Think before you speak – Take your time and think for a moment before you answer a question. This is extremely important if you feel that the question may be leading you into making a false statement. In order to provide yourself with more time to think about your answer, repeat or rephrase the question back to the interviewer before answering.

• Be yourself – The most important thing to remember whenever you are dealing with the media is to relax and be yourself. Listen carefully and always remain calm. Never argue with a reporter and always remain enthusiastic about your topic. If you are not interested, the audience will not be interested either.

Well, that wraps it up for this series of articles. I hope that this information has been helpful and that these final tips will prove useful. For further information or for assistance in developing or redeveloping your media plans, contact Dennis Speigel at 513-381-6131 

Feasibility Analysis - Design / Masterplanning - Pre-Opening Operations Planning - Management

International Theme Park Services, Inc.
International Theme Park Services, Inc.

Contact ITPS

2195 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, Ohio 45206
United States of America
Phone: 513-381-6131

http://www.interthemepark.com
itps@interthemepark.com