Media publicity conventions and perceptions: When you should look beyond the obvious, and when not

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media scrum
The media scrum: You'll rarely want or need to be caught in this situation in seeking publicity for your business.

There are standard staples in the construction industry communications models. You line up your key people with golden shovels and a specially printed sign for the “official groundbreaking” — or you have a similar “line em up, shoot em down” photo with a giant cheque (often for a relatively small dollar amount) for a charitable communication announcement.

Meanwhile, there are real stories  that the media might be interested in waiting to be told (but maybe not).

That may be how you persevered and won a multi-million dollar claim against a scuzzbag owner, or fought off the tax auditors and won a huge rebate check from the government.

And of course, there is the final unwelcome public communications situation — a serious project defect that causes real costs to the community/users, or a job site accident that causes fatalities.

Yeah, these would be newsworthy stories, but I doubt you would want to issue a news release announcing them. But you may have no choice in dealing with the negative publicity, especially if the unfortunate event is significant.

As for that groundbreaking ceremony, the ceremony itself is insignificant, but the project might be really important. And the community service contribution may be a drop in the bucket, but the publicity within your internal newsletter and email system may be encouraging and motivational for your employees/suppliers — and if it is substantial, might herald positive recognition for your philanthropy.

The point is that much of what we see as “news” in this industry isn’t really important and quite a bit of what is important (and potentially newsworthy) is material that we would rather no one see because the publicity could have unwelcome consequences.

The goal in managing publicity is to find the sweet spot — where you become known for good things, and where you can manage the bad situations with effectiveness and skill. This requires planning and specialized expertise and I think media relations and publicity management resources should be a vital part of your marketing budget.

If you are a very large contractor, or architecture/engineer, you may have the resources to hire the necessary professional media managers in-house.  If not, you’ll need either to have the specialized skills on retainer/contract, or the ability to connect with them quickly.

I think a crisis management/publicity plan is essential if you are working on any significant project that could come into the public eye if something goes wrong. (It is hard to put a dollar figure on the scale, but public sector projects and any that you think are worthy of issuing an announcement at the start would qualify.) In these situations, you need an almost reflexive process to set the crisis communications/media management system into place and you won’t have time to think about how to set things up properly.

On the more positive side, a media publicity manager and guide can help you see the really good stories that, if told, will enhance your reputation, improve your brand and attract profitable business at a much more effective level than you could hope through conventional paid advertising or marketing.

How do you find these specialists?

You can start with word-of-mouth recommendation. I continue to believe in the value of association/peer group participation, where you can network (especially on the state or national level) with other businesses similar to you, who are not direct competitors.

You could, of course, call me. In recent months I’ve used my journalistic and media/publicity skills to solve significant marketing challenges. Alas, because of confidentiality, I can’t name specific clients (damn — no testimonials here!) but I’ve used journalistic skills to solve some really significant marketing challenges — including creative competitive research.

You can reach me — and request and receive a free guide to effective media publicity, by emailing buckshon@constructionmarketingideas.com. And there’s an opportunity for a free 30 minute phone consultation here.

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