5 Cultural Policy Resources in South East Europe
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HOME  E-library  Articles & Reports  8. Media
8. MEDIA
21.11.2001 | author: Lyubov Kostova
Media as Ally - Preliminary thoughts of a PR consultant
FIRST PUBLISHED IN
the dossier of the Advocating Culture international workshop, Zagreb, November 2001, as background document
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lyubov Kostova
is Public Communications Manager, British Council, Sofia.
(Lyubov.kostova@britishcouncil.org)
"Reputation is a company's most important asset.
Get it right and you're a winner. Get it wrong and
it could be a different story."


I read this quote some time ago and have now pinned it onto the notice board by my desk.

Why would anyone consider talking to the media in the first place? - Because on the one hand, every organisation - whether in the food or in the car industry, health and safety, child-care or pesticide production, whether dealing with higher education standards or weather forecasts, sooner or later becomes the object of attention of the media. And on the other hand many organisations in fact need to speak to the media if their product is to meet their target, if they are to project an image and gain a reputation.

In this process culture is no different. Cultural organisations are part of the same market and like the pesticide producers need to sell their product.

And when the product is a national policy for culture, talking to the media becomes a crucial factor.

That there is no second chance to make a first impression is a truth well known to all. The same applies to the relations we make with the media. Many people think reporters go out and beat the bushes for stories. That doesn't happen much anymore. Television stations and newspapers face profit pressure just like every business. One way they keep costs down is by relying on companies to help them come up with story ideas and find sources. This process is beneficial to both sides, for while journalists get their items from us we are building relationships of trust with them that enhance our chances for success.

"Creating stories" is one of the most exciting roles of the PR manager. And since any advocacy campaign is in fact an attempt at reaching the public at large, the media are the partner of central importance.

The British Council in Bulgaria initiated a project aimed at redefining the cultural identity which Bulgaria "exports" of itself - the image with which the country represents itself abroad. This project is part of a wider British Council world-wide initiative called Representing Culture (http://www.britishcouncil.org/networkevents/200112an.htm).

After an informal working group was created including prominent specialists involved in the process of culture "export", one of the very first initiatives of the Bulgarian project was to call a press event and to inform the media of the aims and proposed action points over the project period. The main objective of this press event was to in fact bring in the media as early as possible into the "consortium" of partners. We not only wanted to tell them we were "creating a story" and to get publicity for our project, but more importantly to encourage journalists of a variety of media to act as initiators and mediators in a wide public debate on the issues of national cultural identity. Since then several radio programmes were dedicated to different viewpoints on the issue and we are hoping that in the future these voices will become more in both numbers and diversity. Some journalists saw direct opportunities in taking our "story" "on board", they now feed back to us the results they got in the studio and those could become a more or less accurate barometer of the public opinion.

As the project evolves more contacts will be made with the media both through press events and regular updates of latest developments, for their active participation is one of the guarantees that our aims will be achieved. And on the other hand, the mere fact that the media were invited into the process at such early a stage, the fact that their support was sought not only in dissemination but also as rightful partners has won us, we hope, an insuperable and trusted ally.

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