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与媒体打交道

A small-business shorthand for successful press coverage

与媒体打交道

A small-business shorthand for successful press coverage

最近,一位商业杂志撰稿人给我打来电话,说到所有记者都不喜欢公关专业人士,让我谈谈对此的看法。我觉得自己不够资格:我并不厌恶搞公共关系的人。他们向媒体卖消息,而不是向消费者或企业卖产品或卖服务,但他们依然是销售人员。而销售是商业的基本行为,它得到的欢呼声应该更热烈些。

A writer from a business magazine called me recently for my comments on the hatred all journalists harbour towards PR professionals. I felt horribly inadequate. I do not hate PRs. They sell messages to the media rather than products or services to consumers or companies, but they are still salespeople. And sales is the fundamental activity of business. It deserves a louder hurrah than it gets.

许多记者之所以不相信公关人士,是因为在记者看来,唯一象样的报道是主人公不愿公之于众的内容。这让那些喜欢曝光的企业老板感到难办,因为按照记者的逻辑,急于沟通是无话可说的症状。

The distrust many journalists feel towards PRs reflects their belief that the only decent story is one the protagonist does not want them to tell. That complicates the job of publicity-hungry business owners, by dictating that a keenness to communicate is interpreted as a symptom of having nothing to say.

下面,我给大家提供一些贴士。与那些金融界媒体顾问不同,我不会为此收取巨额费用。也许,我会因为泄露业内诀窍而被“皇家小企业撰稿人协会”除名。不过,这是我第99篇专栏,我感到分外胆大。

To make things easier, here are some tips, offered without the eye-watering fee a financial spin doctor would charge. I may be blackballed from the Royal Society of Small Business Scribblers for disclosing trade secrets. But this is my 99th column and that makes a man feel reckless.

如果上市公司要让股东对公司有个好印象,公司老板就不可避免地要与媒体打交道。在这方面,私有公司可以轻松些。你可以随时撩开面纱,对外公布公司的拓展,交易,或者产品。如果生意不好,你可以不理记者的电话。只要没有盈利警告或股价暴跌这样的事实为依据,批评性的报道本身难以立足。

Public company bosses cannot avoid talking to the press if they want to project a positive image to their shareholders. Private entrepreneurs have it easier. You can pop out of purdah to publicise expansion, a deal, or a product whenever you like. If business is going poorly, you can simply ignore calls from reporters. Without such underpinnings as profits warnings or tumbling shares, critical stories are hard to stand up.

有些私有公司的老板故意避开媒体,也没见什么恶果。科尼什(Cornish)家族就是其中一例,他们在2003年以8.6亿美元把旗下的包装公司Linpac出售给他人。而其它一些私有公司的老板,如理查德•布兰森爵士(Sir Richard Branson),已对媒体曝光形成了不那么得体的嗜好,并将其作为公司商业战略的核心组成部分。这部分反映了个性。但同样重要的是,Linpac公司的客户是其它公司,其销售额不会像布兰森的维珍(Virgin)这种消费者集团那样得益于大众媒体的曝光。另外,许多初出茅庐的企业家相信,新闻报道有助于初创企业吸引投资者,于是他们把新闻剪报附在商业计划里。

Some private business owners, such as the Cornish family who sold their packaging business Linpac for £860m in 2003, eschew media contact without ill-effect. Others, such as Sir Richard Branson, have made a quite unseemly appetite for coverage central to their commercial strategy. Partly this reflects personalities. Equally, the sales of a company such as Linpac, whose customers are other businesses, benefit less from mass media exposure than a consumer group such as Virgin. Many fledgling entrepreneurs meanwhile believe press coverage will validate their start-ups with potential investors, and accordingly attach their cuttings to their business plans.

按照公关公司的说法,与广告相比,公关能以更高效率为企业赢得公众的尊敬。他们称,内容报道花费更低,而且比广告文案更能赢得信任。但这番说辞没有提到公关的一大弱点,即不可预见性。就在前不久,我以某家公司的新闻发布为依据撰写了一篇简短的新闻。第二天,该公司的总经理给我打来电话。他说:“非常感谢你刊载我公司的新闻稿,但下次请勿改动其中的文字。”这就是我们记者的问题:我们会改动原文。其结果是,如果一篇新闻发布的原名为“Whizzco公司拟打入快速发展的数据库市场”,经过记者一改,杂志上的标题成了“Whizzco公司境况不佳,仓皇退出外围设备市场”。

The spiel of PR company rainmakers is that PR delivers public esteem more efficiently than advertisements. They claim editorial coverage is cheaper to obtain and is believed more whole-heartedly than advertising copy. The unemphasised downside is unpredictability. A while ago I wrote a short report based on a company press release. The next day the managing director called me. “Thanks for printing our release,” he said, “but please don’t change the words next time”. That is the problem with us journalists. We change the words. As a result, a communiqué innocently titled “Whizzco Targets Fast-Growing Database Market” can be transmuted into a magazine article headlined “Struggling Whizzco Quits Peripherals Market in Disarray”.

广义上讲,有两类商业公关顾问。一种属于资深级的,很能打动人心,但浑身散发着令人不安的油滑气息。他的职责包括给记者打电话,神秘兮兮地告诉他们,与他的客户存在利害冲突的某公司老板在1979年被免去牧师资格。另一种公关的资历稍浅,精力充沛,干劲十足,但注意力不够集中。如果是一名女性,她是那种不错的女孩,本来希望去苏富比拍卖行(Sotheby’s)工作。如果是一名男性,他是那种大户人家的次子,要在以前,早就把他送去殖民地,在那里发财,或者染上怪病。

Broadly, there are two kinds of financial PR consultant. One type is senior and smoothly charming, yet emits disturbing whiffs of brimstone. His duties include phoning journalists to mention, entre nous, that a company boss whose interests conflict with his client’s was defrocked as a priest in 1979. The other type is junior and has the bouncy, unfocused eagerness of a red setter puppy. If female, she is a nice girl who had rather hoped to work for Sotheby’s. If male, he is a younger son of a good family that in times past would have sent him to the colonies to make his fortune or contract an exotic disease.

商业记者较难归类。公平地讲,我们中几乎无人是在实现儿时的梦想。如果你在宴会上告诉某人你是个记者,你会引起他人的兴趣。但如果你接着告诉人家你是一名商业记者,那么之前的兴趣就会即刻消失。在多数人看来,商业记者听起来和品性不端的会计师差不多。我们成为商业记者的道路不尽相同。以我为例,当年在英格兰Blackpool市的Tower Ballroom舞厅,如果我能通过面试,成功演奏Mighty Wurlitzer管风琴,现在我就不会在此和你说话了。

Business writers are harder to categorise. It is fair to say that few of us are realising a childhood dream. Tell someone at a dinner party you are a journalist and you provoke flickers of interest. You can quickly quench these by explaining you are a business journalist. To most people that just sounds like a louche accountant. We arrive at our profession by multiple routes. I, for example, would not be addressing you now had I passed the audition to play the Mighty Wurlitzer twice nightly in the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool.

商业记者的共同点,就是要从纷繁混乱的商业生活中,提炼出引人入胜的报道。如果企业能向采访者提供现成的故事,而非一大堆事实、数据和轶事,那就更有可能看到自己希望的报道。好的地方是,企业家成功故事是一种发展较为成熟的体裁。

What unites business journalists is the need to piece together compelling stories from the chaos of commercial life. You are more likely to get the write-up you want if you can present interviewers with a ready-made narrative rather than a jumble of facts, figures and anecdotes. The entrepreneurial success story is, helpfully, a well-developed genre.

理想情况下,企业家应该出身高贵,享有特权或者出身贫寒。如果你有皇室朋友,还擅长打马球,那么你在许多出版物上占的专栏空间就牢不可破。假如你被慈爱但不识字的吉普赛人带大,曾经住在漏风的大篷车里,你可以把这种经历变成一件好事。

Ideally you should either come from a background of lofty privilege or grinding poverty. Royal friends and polo-playing skill guarantee you column inches in many publications. You can make as good a thing of being raised by loving but illiterate Traveller folk in a leaky caravan.

如果你的背景平凡得令人汗颜,那也没什么关系。你还是可以向记者提供企业家成功故事中不可缺少的戏剧性素材。你可以解释一下,你是如何在洗澡时突然想到刻字的助听器还有许多市场潜力可挖。如果你的公司曾遭受过一次毁灭性的打击,但你的勇气让公司度过了难关,那么这个情节也很不错,能推动故事的发展。如果你的公司曾濒临破产,但终于得到一份订单或注资,让公司柳暗花明,这样的细节要放在高潮部分。以此为基础,记者就能轻而易举地叙述你现在的成功和主导国际市场的未来计划。

If your background is shamingly ordinary, never mind. You can still provide reporters with that sine qua non of the entrepreneur’s yarn, the eureka moment. Explain how the revelation of vast untapped demand for monogrammed hearing aids hit you in the bath. A crushing setback, pluckily overcome, is a good plot motif to carry the yarn forward. The order or capital injection that saved your business should materialise, like the Ninth Cavalry, at the last gasp. From there it is an easy canter into recounting your current success and plans for future world domination.

归根结底,和记者打交道是一种商业往来,一种无现金的交易。你为了得到媒体曝光而向记者提供信息,让记者写成一篇好故事。批评者称,企业的公关经费是对媒体的隐性补贴,理由是企业向记者“喂”资料,损害了记者的客观性。我的感觉是,公关只是一个平衡块,平衡媒体由商业利益驱动的对负面新闻的贪欲。结果就是恰到好处的新闻报道,即使其初衷有问题。

Dealing with a journalist is ultimately just another business transaction, a kind of cashless trading. You pay for exposure by providing information that can be turned into good copy. Critics say corporate PR spending represents a concealed subsidy to the media, that business compromises the objectivity of journalists by spoon-feeding them material. My hunch is that PR is merely a counterweight to the media’s strong, commercially driven appetite for bad news. The result would be coverage with the right balance, if for the wrong reasons.

译者/胡新妍

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