It’s All About Relationships

by Jean P. Giles, coordinator of community relations, Cedarburg School District

There’s no doubt about it, relationship building with the media can be hard. Sometimes, it’s a real challenge. Yet, we need the media to work with us, and we need to work with them.

I love sharing my horse stories because I have a passion for horses , and I find horses often make more sense than we humans do. When I first got my two horses a few years ago, I read several books on relationship training with horses. Trainer Gawani Pony Boy tells horse stories that really hit home. He speaks about Native American hormanship and the relationship of the herd. I have learned quite a few lessons from learning about relationships with horses.

Have Patience and Understanding

Know that reporters have deadlines, aspirations, and other stories besides yours. They have an editor with expectations that might be different from yours. Understand the demands of their job and be patient.

Take those horses. I always say, “You can’t move a 1,000 pound animal by force.” Well, you cantry, and boy, have I seen some “cowboys” try. But in the end, the horse can kick or rear up and probably break loose and run off. Clearly, a horse cannot be bullied into doing something, nor can people. Working with local media, or any human being for that matter, requires time: time for you to get to know each other, and time for each of you to do your work.

Give the Gift of Time

Reporters are able to be more accurate when they have advance notice of things happening in schools, and when they can contact people in a timely fashion. Save time for them by giving them press releases well in advance, and being willing to offer time for interview questions. Back to my horse analogy: If you relly want the horse there for you when you need him, you need to build a trusting relationship first.

That investment of giving your time to a reporter may be returned to you later when you need the favor returned. There will come a time when you need an extra hour or so to gather accurate facts.

Be Willing to Serve

Let local reporters have a “heads up” when you can on incidents before they become full-scale catastrophes. Provide well-written press releases and let them use your words. Interviews are important to reporters?help them get interviews in your organization.

Patience, understanding, the gift of time, and a willingness to serve are key ingredients to trusting relationships.

About the author

The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) is a professional association representing schools, school districts, educational associations, consulting agencies and organizations. WSPRA is a state affiliate of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 4797 HAYES ROAD | SUITE 103 | MADISON, WI 53704 | PHONE: 608-241-0300 | WSPRA@AWSA.ORG