Editorial board meetings can be good news for companies

Suppose a daily paper recently covered an issue close to you, either in an article or editorial.

Suppose a daily paper recently covered an issue close to you, either in an article or editorial. Maybe it slighted your industry, advocated legislation you oppose, or displayed a bias, reporting inaccurately and unfairly. Maybe you wish to set the record straight and propose some reforms or simply see the need to educate influencers. 

Next step? Set up an editorial board briefing. It's an opportunity for you to offer expertise relevant to the issue at hand and foster understanding and support. In the best scenario, you might influence editorial coverage to your advantage and improve public perception.

In preparing, you'll need to know the makeup of your audience cold, such as whether a paper is conservative, moderate, or liberal. You should also know the likely attendees of the briefing, whether it will include editors, columnists, or beat reporters who cover your business. Study the background on each. Those are givens.

Editorial boards typically want to meet with an organization's top person, such as the CEO. But if the discussion is to be scientific, for example, your head of research might be a better fit. Or, to reinforce your credibility, enlist an independent-minded third party or a local community activist, for example. 

In most cases, clients prefer to stay on the record, especially if seeking to be identified in an editorial. But some should operate with an agreement up front that discussions stay on background. Sensitive negotiations with federal agencies, for example, might dictate such. In those cases, your client is better off exerting editorial influence behind the scenes.

Whatever the case, expect to be challenged. Skepticism or even cynicism over your motives might materialize. Urge clients to avoid sounding unduly self-serving. The issues on the table no doubt touch others, so demonstrate a sincere interest in the greater good.

Above all, make sure the client tells a story, complete with conflict and suspense. Example: "The companies we represent make advanced medical devices that enable people to live independent, productive lives. But some policymakers say such technology is too expensive and want to tighten federal regulations. We say these devices actually save us all money in the long term. Let us now show you exactly how new laws would threaten innovation."

By following these steps, clients establish a reputation as respected experts. They also lay the groundwork for editorial coverage that will favorably influence public opinion.

Bob Brody is an SVP/media specialist at Powell Tate, a D.C.-based strategic communications firm and division of Weber Shandwick.

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