Modern media relations must do more than fight fires, GCS deputy director tells colleagues

Modern media relations is much more than "fire fighting" demands from journalists and should be seen as a strategic discipline, according to Gabriel Milland, deputy director of the Government Communication Service (GCS).

Modenr media relations is about more than fire fighting, says Gabriel Milland
Modenr media relations is about more than fire fighting, says Gabriel Milland
Milland has set out a vision of what will constitute best practice ahead of a report on the Modern Media Operation project, which he described as "one of the most important and wide-ranging pieces of work ever to be attempted by the GCS."

The new report will call on comms teams to ensure that media relations is part of integrated campaigns, and will go above and beyond providing "stock lines" to journalists and writing press releases. 

Media relations specialists need to be able to "create content which can be shared by third-party organisations and individuals." 

They pressures of the modern media environment are such that the traditional 24-hour news cycle has been replaced by rolling news on demand across digital platforms, according to Milland.

"Storms can break on social media, and then ebb away, in less time than it previously took the average journalist to write a 600-word page lead for the next day’s paper," Milland said.

Setting out his thoughts in a blog on the GCS website, the senior comms professional said: "Media relations is not just fire-fighting. Nor is it something which is simple, or static." 

He described it as a "highly strategic discipline capable of delivering important objectives."

The forthcoming report, to be published in spring, will also stress the importance of communicating to the public online – particularly on social-media networks.

Evaluation is also a key priority, and another area of importance is empowering those charged with media management to "take professional ownership of modern media relations practice."

Whitehall departments face much more scrutiny than private companies, according to Milland: "A big oil company, bank or airline might go years without having to deal with a potentially reputation-destroying crisis being played out in public. But these are weekly events for government." 

He paid tribute to government comms teams: "Our media relations people are battle-hardened and smart, while at the same time adhering to the highest values of the Civil Service." 

He concluded: "It’s time for media relations to restate its importance."

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