Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Is That You on the 6 O'clock News

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Is That You on the 6 O'clock News

Article excerpt

"Our lead story this evening; a man was found shot in a stairway in the 900 block of Riva Road this afternoon. Let's go live to Barry Johnson at the scene for the latest..."

If this hasn't happened to you yet, it will. It doesn't matter if you manage apartments, office buildings, retail, or industrial properties. None of us are immune to disaster. Your moment of "fame" might not be a murder. It might be a fire, a drug raid, even a natural disaster. But it will happen, and it will happen to you!

All right, we've convinced you - now what should you do? Acknowledging that the media will knock on your door sooner or later is the first step to successfully handling the media.

Second, look at media coverage as an opportunity to turn your experience with the media into something positive. If you tell yourself you can't deal with the media, you will likely live up to your expectations. But if you decide that talking with the media gives you the opportunity to show your management skills and compassion, you will probably find it a pleasant experience.

When you talk to the media, it is vital to understand the extent of its power and reach. In the Baltimore area (population 2.5 million), for example, look at the number of persons who are reached by these few media organizations on a daily basis:

The Baltimore Sun                 494,542
City Paper                         91,000
WBAL Radio                        377,200
WJZ-TV 6pm News                   214,000
WBAL-TV 6pm News                  125,000
WMAR-TV 6pm News                  137,000

Compare this with the results of your last ad. Can you afford not to be prepared?

Planning Makes Perfect

We plan and budget for operations, capital expenditures, marketing, and leasing. Why wouldn't we plan for dealing with the media in a crisis? Your media plan can range from one page to a detailed book.

At the very minimum, it should include a "call-tree" of people and phone numbers to notify in case of an emergency. It should also include the name and contact numbers for your primary and backup media spokespersons.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, it can be so detailed to include designated locations on- and off-site for press conferences and interviews. Enlisting the help of a public relations professional to prepare your plan, even if you won't use him or her as your spokesperson, is money and time well spent.

Keep an updated list of broadcast and print media and the reporters' names, if possible. Knowing who you will deal with during your crisis helps you respond more confidently. If you are familiar with the reporter assigned, you will be less likely to feel defensive (read guilty), and the reporter will be more likely to treat you with respect.

Assign a spokesperson. Designate the person or persons in your organization who will speak to the media. You might hire a local public relations firm to act as your spokesperson if you don't want to use someone from your staff. The person should be: well spoken, knowledgeable about the company and its policies, and comfortable in dealing with the media.

He or the should be prepared for the standard questions: What happened? Who was responsible? What are you going to do about it?

Most importantly, make sure the spokesperson is the only person who talks to the media. Period. Everyone else should be given strict instructions to direct any person making an inquiry to the designated spokesperson.

What the Media Needs

Prepare yourself like a journalist and you will be prepared for the media when they arrive. Your spokesperson needs to know the answers to the five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. List these questions on a page and write clear, concise answers next to each one. Avoid the use of real estate jargon; remember, you will be talking to John Q. Public. Keep it simple, honest, and brief. Try to have a co-worker ask you these questions for practice, if time permits. …

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