Guidepost #14 – Ray Gosack, City of Fort Smith, AR

Posted on October 31, 2014

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Gosack Cookingham

Today we learn from Mr. Ray Gosack, the city administrator of Fort Smith, AR.  Prior to his service in Fort Smith as city administrator, Mr. Gosack was the Fort Smith deputy city administrator.  He also served during 1988-1999 as the assistant village manager and director of management services for the Village of Homewood, Ill.

Be sure to develop good press relations and give all the time necessary to help the press, radio, and other media to keep the public informed, because any one of these media can ruin your program with very little effort.

Mr. Cookingham’s 14th guidepost remains relevant today, even considering the explosion of social media.  If he were with us today, I think Mr. Cookingham would readily expand his wisdom of developing good press relations to include social media.

Our means of mass communication with the public is ever-evolving.  Although social media is important, relations with the traditional mainstream media are equally (if not more) important.  Many of the principles which apply to the traditional press also apply to our social media communications.  I believe these guidelines are timeless regardless of the communication medium.

  • Always be honest. Always!
  • Be accessible, responsive and timely. Respect the media’s deadlines and the time-sensitive nature of the news business.
  • Develop businesslike relationships. Get to know the publishers, editors, news directors, and assignment managers.  These relationships help when things are going well and when things aren’t going so well.
  • Treat the media equally. Don’t play favorites.  If you initiate a story, make it available to all media outlets.
  • Present your story with a perspective that makes it newsworthy. A reporter will want to know why his/her readers should care about your story.
  • Be a trusted source of knowledge and information. Stick to the facts, and minimize your personal opinions.
  • Get your message across. Don’t let reporters put words into your mouth.  They can’t print what you don’t say.
  • Nurture your staff to deal with the media. You can’t be the only player in the game.  Make sure there’s depth on your bench.  However, there’s some stories for which you must take the lead, and which can’t be delegated to another staffer.
  • Don’t let a reporter bait you into being a source of confidential information. One of their oldest tricks is to discuss a confidential matter with you as if it’s common knowledge.  If you take the bait, you’ve become their on-the-record source.  Keep the hook out of your mouth unless you want to be quoted as the source of the information.

Social and traditional media help us do our jobs.  They keep the public informed, which is necessary for a citizenry to be supportive of its local government.  Many of the principles necessary for success are the same regardless of which media is the communication tool.  What additional guidelines, either for social media or traditional media, support Mr. Cookingham’s 14th guidepost?

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