BOB GARFIELD: Large companies, Enron let's say, typically hierarchy public relations people to cultivate the media. Smaller businesses don't always have that option, and often find the media an intimidating force. In New Mexico the greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce recently organized what it called the "Feeding the Beast Tour" to show smaller companies how to manage the media. On the Media's Paul Ingles went along for the ride.
WENDY FORBES: My name's Wendy Forbes, and this is our first annual Feeding the Beast media tour.
PAUL INGLES: This day begins with about 40 small business and non-profit professionals crowded into a tiny conference room at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. One runs a tree-free paper company. Another represents state cattle ranchers. There are reps from a bank and a technical school. A bus will be taking them to a local TV station, a radio group and the daily newspaper headquarters to meet some of Albuquerque's media gatekeepers.
TOM GARRITY: Good morning! How's everybody doing? [CROWD RESPONSE - GOOD! GREAT!] Hey! All righty - you're lively! I'm not going to have to do that again. That's great!
PAUL INGLES: But first a presentation from Tom Garrity who spent 10 years in TV news shops before opening a PR firm. He tells the group to build relationships with reporters before their businesses need coverage and never call close to deadlines. And if you're being interviewed, he says, use phrases that will ensure that the sound bite you want will make it to the final story.
TOM GARRITY: Things like: This is important because --What's important here is -- because when a reporter goes back, they're going to be whistling - you know, kind of blowing through in an edit bay just kind of listening for key things in the interview, and if all of a sudden you say you know what's important here is -- and all of a sudden they're going to perk up, go hey - I need to listen to this; this is important for me. [SOUND OF BUS PULLING UP]
PAUL INGLES: Then it's on the bus over to KRQE-TV, the local CBS affiliate. Terri Stewart, who's on the tour representing a large medical lab, tries Tom's tip out on me, saying it's important for her to learn how to get the lab into a news story where an appearance by a lab expert is more credible than an advertisement.
TERRI STEWART: From a PR standpoint we're trying to educate the general public about what we are, so if they see in the news media, you know, here's another scientist from Tricor [sp?] explaining what Hanta virus is that they see us as that expert.
MARILYN PAINTER: Keith, can you give me a live box on the CG? Okay, this is the control room for all the, the live programming that we do, so--
PAUL INGLES: In the catacomb-like KRQE studios creative services chief Marilyn Painter leads the tour. When one of the businesspeople asks where the fax machine is, another tour member jokes "It's probably right next to a big trash can in the newsroom." Marilyn smilingly denies that and says if they'll call her, she'll help improve their chances for air time.
MARILYN PAINTER: Sometimes we get calls and people want us to cover w-- they've got a fundraising banquet. Well viewers don't really want to watch people eating their food. You know it, it's -- it just needs a real visual component. If it's good visuals it's going to, you know, have more interest for news just because we're trying to keep the viewers watching.
ANNOUNCER: Depend on Newsradio 770 KKOB.
ANNOUNCER: We're at 9:53:01....
PAUL INGLES:Next it's on to Citadel Broadcasting with 200 stations and 43 different markets. Its 7 Albuquerque stations are crammed into the 5th floor of a downtown office building. Some tour members say they like the one stop shopping convenience. Citadel public affairs director Art Ortega is telling him his stations are in the people-delivery business, and even organizations with no ad budgets can reach those people with public service announcements or by hooking on to a station's promotion. And for the problem of too much media attention, Ortega offers some advice.
ART ORTEGA: When you're answering a question about some negative or some prob-- some situation in your company that has come up, appoint one person to speak to the media. Okay? I mean --absolutely there's no question. And you let everybody in your organization know that Mary or Fred or whomever is the media spokesperson for this issue. Period. [SOUND OF PRESS ROOM]
PAUL INGLES: The tour ends at Journal Center, home of the state's largest daily paper, the Albuquerque Journal and the afternoon Albuquerque Tribune which is rocketing off the presses. The group watches from an overhead viewing gallery and listens to piped-in audio.
ANNOUNCER: The pressman can adjust the amount of ink, the position of the plates and the speed of the press from their control panel.
MICHAEL MURPHY: If you've got something that needs covering --God, I hate it when I do this -- pick up the phone and call me.
PAUL INGLES: Michael Murphy manages the Journal's business coverage including the twice-weekly section called Business Outlook.
MICHAEL MURPHY: We have -- in the Outlooks, try to have a way to say yes to all of you who call in and say can you write something about us.
PAUL INGLES:Murphy suggests that the business-friendly Outlook sections are the easiest path for free coverage, as its pages advocate for the business perspective in a way the rest of the paper won't.
MICHAEL MURPHY: There was a developer building a controversial WalMart shopping complex. City Desk did that a lot cause it's very political neighborhood groups upset and everything. We ended up writing some stories about how that developer actually followed the rules, crossing all his t's and dotting all his i's that complemented that coverage but it was a business angle that the City Desk was not giving much cr-- weight to.
PAUL INGLES: We asked Murphy to comment on a spread from a recent Journal local section spotlighting a visit by the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile at a grocery store. It is of course big and colorful. There's a guy juggling little Weinermobiles, a kid blowing a Weiner Whistle. A hot dog maker was announcing a kid's jingle-singing contest that would merit one lucky school 10,000 dollars. Murphy admitted to it being a winning formula for coverage.
MICHAEL MURPHY: Well, God help me, you know, we, we like TV, do like a good visual, and if you've got your Weinermobile coming in, we're going to go take a picture and, and if it's a groundbreaking, we probably aren't! We'll write about it, but you get us a good visual -- and sometimes that's better than a 30-inch long story.
PAUL INGLES: So if Weinermobile equals good media coverage, perhaps Enron should be calling Oscar Meyer about rental rates on its Weinermobile. For On the Media, I'm Paul Ingles.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, the tug of war over presidential papers and video-schmoozing in a New York bar.
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media from National Public Radio.