Magonova and Partners

How to Organize Press Tours to Toxic Companies

How to Organize Press Tours to Toxic Companies

Compared to biblical motifs, a press tour has but one goal – it aims to prove existence. It is the existence of what is written in press releases: new technology, eco-friendly manufacturing, social philosophy, investment transactions with international actors and other delights of industrial life.

When a facility is toxic, i.e. drowning in a negative media field, press tours turn out to be the perfect solution. It is the press service that salvages the information immunity of that facility.

PJSC Odessa Port Plant (OPP) is quite a vivid  example.

According to “Schemes”, this company is full of criminal schemes. If this media resource takes up a matter, you are welcome to find yourself in a toxic media field as soon as you cross the threshold. According to our contract, we rendered transaction services to Energy Resources of Ukraine Ltd. and OPP. Our task was to maintain the international reputation of Energy Resources of Ukraine Ltd. (incorporated in the USA) and to prove that fair play exists in the energy system of Ukraine. 

Ukraine’s industry is a matter of a conflict of interests. Regardless of forms of incorporation or beneficiaries, plants become the targets of accusations. Schemes, tax evasion and environmental pollution shape a basic image of a company. The exception is foreign industrial elites – it is very difficult to tarnish the image of adventurers who decided to invest in Ukraine. When these newsbreaks oversaturate the media space, an industrial facility name becomes a household name. It would seem that the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on. However, would you like to join the caravan if the annoying dogs do not stop barking? International investors, partners and experts will prefer a quiet path away from constant media scandals. These scandals can be biased and hobbled, but they  land at the top of Google’s search results.

In the OPP’s case, basic media monitoring reports and percentages determine the level of toxicity. Being at the intersection of a conflict of interests, OPP put itself in the midst of scandals. 

A press tour is an extremely delicate procedure for an owner of an industrial company. They treat their facilities as totally personal and intimate things that cannot be accessible to prying eyes. They cannot even imagine that a third party interferes with these relationships. It requires more than one presentation and formula to prove the efficiency of press tours. If you manage to convince them, you will receive as much credibility as you need.

Imagine being Danko who has to bring his burning heart to the foreign media. Do not be rash and naive, letters and invitations will provoke interest and inspire credibility only if you are standing with both feet on a rational foundation. 

Here are some tips on how to lay it:

  1. Many numbers are always good. Fewer adjectives are always good. Speak a mathematical language, and they will hear you. We had the following arguments: the company is relatively young, established only in 1974, a monopolist in the CIS market for ammonia transshipment with total capacities of more than 8 million tons per year, a partner company of ERU, operating in international markets, ERU Trading became the largest private importer of natural gas to Ukraine in 2015.
  2. Give your own arguments for each publication. Probably, someone has already written about the company or they have a full-time journalist who specializes in the topic or the region. Refer to any, even indirect, connection. For example, Edward Chow, an author of publications for Financial Times and a former top manager of Chevron, an energy company, has repeatedly written  pieces about the energy system of Ukraine, mainly natural gas aspects thereof. Since the deal concerned the natural gas supply, it was not difficult to interest Mr. Chow. The Washington Post is more interested in the political aspect, so the distribution of political will in the region will  appeal more to them. In this case, we must not forget about the entire production chain of the company. By the way, ammonia is one of the main components of explosives.
  3. Do not slip into mere bureaucracy. Be proactive and emphasize the topic relevance with weak points. Become a cherished outcast.
  4. Do not focus on benefits, e.g. accommodation, business class flights and dinners. You are not bribing; you are sparking interest. Instead of taking pictures of a beautiful room, announce interviews with independent experts and possible interviews with top management or representatives of political establishment off the record. Everyone likes insights.
  5. If you do not have experience in drawing up communication strategies, take advice from KyivPost or Ukraine Business Journal. Contact them and ask to edit the invitation letter. They will be able to correct stylistic flaws and choose the right tone. For example, the invited KyivPost journalist helped us. He began the letter to the editor with the following phrase: “Dear Editor, I don’t have the faintest idea how tired you are of the news about Ukrainian corruption and revolution. But Ukraine is not only about that.” Beginning letters like this is quite familiar but efficient. You can use it, depending on the client level. If you speak on behalf of the country, you risk being a laughing stock and letting everyone down.

This raises the question: “Why would we need foreigners at all?” The materials will be reprinted by domestic, native mass media. They will monitor company’s subsequent transactions, and these publications will take a toll. You point out the importance and, most importantly, get objectivity. If fair play is not about objectivity, then what is it about?

However, when journalists agree, get ready. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • If your level is “London is the capital of the Great Britain,” you need an interpreter. Two interpreters. Simultaneous, consecutive and super professional interpreters.
  • Animate all data, if possible, and provide tablets with a company’s map, dossiers of key figures and company history; show quotes.
  • Maximum safety. It is important. Helmets, coats and rubber boots. Start  your energy-related collection.
  • Show more than necessary. The main quality of journalists is curiosity. Quench their thirst. Show not only production but also organization, e.g. it can be a control room, if necessary, act out an episode of vigorous activity. It is desirable that a speaker can tell journalists about the company history. The countries of the post-Soviet space have a certain charm for foreign journalists, especially with regard to extremely important facilities. For example, answer the following question: “Were rockets made from this plant’s products during the Cold War?”

Find and invite an independent expert from another but familiar and understandable field: an investment banker, a parliamentarian, and a representative of European institutions. His/her role is supporting the whole thing with their reputation. Most often, this cooperation is mutually beneficial. If a person pushes issues of the fuel and industrial complex, holds a public position or often works with foreign companies, it will be important for him/her to meet foreign mass media because it means networking for them.