The 3 A's of Getting Good Press, and More on the Spitzer Scandal

Last Updated Mar 12, 2008 12:38 PM EDT

It's not every day that a veteran journalist takes the time to provide a media relations lesson to those seeking "good press." But that's what San Francisco Chronicle columnist John Diaz did in Sunday's edition of the paper. He mainly addressed his advice to politicians, but it applies to business people as well.

Here are some choice excerpts:

With apologies to friends who are making a nice living in public relations, there is no great mystery to getting good press.

The Woody Allen saying - "80 percent of life is just showing up" - certainly applies to politicians and public figures who want to cultivate good press relations.

In my experience, the public figures who consistently get positive media attention practice what I call "the three A's" - accessible, accurate and articulate. Of those, accessibility accounts for 80 percent of the equation.

As a journalist of 30 years, I have come to recognize many truisms about my profession. One is that the reporters who cover politics tend to be the fairest and least ideological in the newsroom. They don't define good and bad by party label or from a left-right prism; they tend to judge individuals by who returns their calls and gives them honest answers and good quotes. The other truism is that while most journalists I know are extremely sensitive to being manipulated - the bogus photo opportunity, the shameless spin, the half-truth study - they are less on guard about being co-opted. Accessibility is the ultimate tool of co-option. The public figures who recognize this have a distinct advantage over those who try to outclever themselves.

No politician has been more masterful at getting a prominent place in reporters' Rolodexes than [California] state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. As an Alameda County supervisor in the 1990s, he was known in Bay Area newsrooms as "dial-a-quote Don" for his speed at returning calls, the reliability of his information and his sized-to-fit quotes. In other words, he had the three A's down pat.


And now, back to Eliot Spitzer:

Thanks to everyone who commented on my post on the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal yesterday. A couple of replies:

Point #1: I wasn't making a political statement. I would have said the same thing -- that the Republican administration certainly did Spitzer no favors by saying he was "linked to a prostitution ring" -- if the political parties had been reversed. I was making a point about the use of messaging to control the agenda. It's the same thing that Target tries to do to Wal-Mart, and AT&T tries to do to Verizon, etc.

Point #2: Considering Spitzer's holier-than-thou approach to law enforcement, it's fair to say he got what he deserved in being exposed as a hypocrite and law-breaker. But he was not "part" of a prostitution ring. He was a customer of a prostitution business. He was no more a part of the so-called "ring" than you are part of a "grocery ring" when you shop at the supermarket.

  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.