When working with a principal and preparing them for coping with the media, one of the most important tasks you face is assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Part of the process of getting to know your principal is conducting an honest assessment. The result should allow you to develop a fair understanding of what will make them look good and what should be avoided.
photo credit: Annie Mole
One of the best ways to do this when you first take over a communications operation is to review your principal’s clips and taped interviews to gain an idea of the best forums that will help to advance their message. It is also important to develop an idea of where they fall in three categories: paranoid principal, media hog, or media mouse.
Some public figures tend to have the idea that the media is “out to get them.” The only way to successfully work with the paranoid principal is through education. The paranoid principal often focuses on a single poor story, but when you redirect them and reveal the totality of coverage they will see that for the most part coverage is balanced and fair. You must make sure that this type of misconception does not interfere with the potential for positive media coverage in the future.
Another common type you may encounter is the media hog. In this case, whatever coverage they get is never enough. There is often very little that you can do to please a principal who does not have a good understanding of the media and therefore expects too much. The only thing you can really do in this scenario is to work toward changing the way your principal views the media. You should also make a point to document their successes and try to manage their expectations by making clear and consistent predictions regarding the amount as well as the quality of press coverage prior to an event.
In some cases you may find you are dealing with a media mouse. This type of principal often believes the media simply is not interested in them. You need to exercise extreme persistence and patience when dealing with this type of principal. Standard media training techniques can go a long way toward helping your principal overcome their fear of speaking in public and moving beyond the idea that they are not yet ready.
Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Sections 7.3-7.6 Dealing with the Principal
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