You don’t own me: What toddlers can teach us about news ownership

By Jason Mudd

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Many of us have had a laugh over “the toddler’s rules for possession.” Many of us may have experienced these rules in action during the holiday season, such as “if I saw it, it’s mine,” “if I let you have it, it’s mine,” and, of course, “if I had it a little while ago, it’s still mine.”

When it comes to news you send out online or other content you send out about your business, you may wish these rules could apply if something goes wrong – but in reality, none of them do.

There’s a fair amount of wisdom here for any business that sends out news, either on its own or through a professional PR firm. As you look at communications goals for 2014, remember this: You don’t officially own anything that is sent out as a blog or a news piece which is picked up by online sources. Once it’s submitted, distributed and circulated, when they run it, it’s theirs.

Here’s a quick review we call “the PR firm’s adult rules for news submissions.” These rules are true no matter how you might want them to be different (and no matter your tantrum).

1. If you read or hear something about your organization in the news, blogosphere or online, you can’t just take ownership of it. You also can’t claim a piece of news as your own if a newspaper runs an article about you. The news that newspapers write belongs to them. Solution: If a problem arises and the news is already out there, work with a PR professional to shift the attention away from the issue in question to a new one that’s more positive. They’re experts at doing this.

2. Once it’s published, aired, shared and blogged, it’s fair game for others to mention or share again. If you’ve sent out a news/press release (or other content) that needs to be retracted or changed, once it’s been let loose, it’s impossible to keep people from sharing and resharing it. Solution: Make sure the story is exactly how you want it before it goes out, and that all permissions have been gathered. (We can’t say that enough.)

3. In a conversation with a journalist, things you say “off the record” may not be off the record at all. It’s the media’s job to report the story, and that includes comments or information you share on the phone or in an email. Solution: Carefully consider comments before you make them; create a message list that you want to adhere to. Even better, hire this out to a smart, savvy PR firm that can create and share the messages for you.

It’s also helpful to anticipate readers’ responses ahead of time to the news that’s shared about you. This can be a key part of a social media and online reputation management strategy. Getting leaders from across your organization, alongside your PR firm, together at the table can be a great opportunity to explore different possible message scenarios and how you might handle them if they arise. You can also make a step-by-step action plan for handling negative backlash. Prevention is always the best cure.

No, you can’t just ask for a piece of negative news about you to go away – but you can plan ahead for it and shift the spotlight when you need to. Keeping strong, positive messages about your company coming across various platforms throughout the year puts you in an even better position to do this. Building and maintaining good relationships with media professionals is also critical so that they can ask you directly if some questionable news arises.

Now’s the time to polish your online reputation management strategy for 2014 so that no one tries to take what’s yours – such as your hard-earned brand image. Show ‘em who’s boss, and let the professionals at Axia Public Relations help. We’re ready and willing.

Jason-Mudd-axia-pr– Jason Mudd, APR, is CEO of Axia Public Relations. He is an Emmy-Award-winning accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His public relations portfolio includes work for established national and emerging brands such as American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, Brightway Insurance, Florida Blue, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, It Works! Global, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Ray Charles, Southern Comfort, Verizon and more. Connect with Jason at @jasonmudd9 and Axia Public Relations at @axiapr. Be sure to tweet and share your thoughts below. We’ll read and respond to each of them.

Topics: Media Relations, Public Relations, Featured

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