The PSA is a national union representing public service workers in central and local government, the health sector, tertiary education and in community services. We seek media coverage about a wide range of issues relating to public services, public administration, government policy and matters of industrial significance to our members. This media relations policy advises PSA elected officials and staff about the approach to be taken to the management of media issues.
Purpose and approach
The focus for the PSA media relations approach is to actively seek opportunities for the PSA to take newsworthy positions on a wide range of public sector issues and events.
The PSA seeks more and better media coverage in an effort to advance the purpose and objectives of the PSA and in particular to:
The purpose of the PSA media policy is to:
PSA media communications need as much as possible to be:
This policy applies to all forms of mass communications media, including national, local and community newspapers, radio, television, electronic media and other forms of published news.
The National Secretaries are the authorised spokespeople of the PSA. There are matters where it is appropriate for the PSA President to be the spokesperson and these are decided on a case by case basis.
Delegation of spokesperson role
The national secretaries may delegate others who have detailed knowledge of a local or national PSA issue to act as the PSA spokespeople. The decision to delegate the spokesperson role will be made in respect of specific media events on a case-by-case basis. Delegation may be made to an elected official, an assistant secretary, organiser, media advisor, policy advisor or other member of staff.
Any person so delegated must contact the Media Advisor before any comment is given, to ensure that comments made on behalf of the PSA represent accurately PSA policy and strategy.
Spokespeople must brief the Media Advisor after speaking to the media about any issues arising from the contact. The purpose of this is to achieve a consistent line and in order to monitor media coverage.
Role of PSA media advisor
The core function of the PSA Media Advisor is to co-ordinate media communications and liaison.
Media inquiries directed to staff or elected officials should be referred to the Media Advisor.
The Media Advisor is to be kept advised of all staff liaison with the media.
By delegation of a national secretary, the media advisor may at times provide direct media comment.
To ensure the accuracy and consistency of all PSA communications with the media (including radio, print, and television journalists), and to provide a clear reference point for the media, all media comment on workplace disputes, matters of PSA policy and operation, and public sector issues must come from or through the Media Advisor.
Identification of issues
The Secretariat and Media Advisor should regularly identify current issues on which the PSA can proactively or reactively comment. These may arise from enterprise contact and other organising work, or from other areas of PSA focus including policy work.
PSA staff are encouraged to identify opportunities for positive media stories, letters to the editor and media releases and communicate these to the Media Advisor.
Disputes media coverage – the role of assistant secretaries, organisers and delegates
Disputes in progress are the most common source of media interest in the PSA.
It is likely that the Assistant Secretaries will be delegated as spokespeople to deal with industrial disputes in many situations.
Delegates and PSA staff are often in the ‘front-line’ during disputes, standing on public pickets, for example, and regularly approached by journalists. As such they are important links between the PSA spokespeople and the media, but they are not spokespeople, unless delegated by one of the spokespeople.
The key role for organisers and delegates in relation to journalists is as facilitators of contact with the authorised PSA spokespeople.
Organisers and/or delegates involved in a particular dispute should ensure that the relevant Secretariat member or Assistant Secretary and the Media Advisor have up-to-date information about a dispute, preferably before it has become a media story, and as the dispute progresses.
Approaches from journalists should be responded to with information about how to contact the Media Advisor.
We recognise that local organisers and delegates often have strong relationships with local journalists and in some cases are best placed to comment. They are also often the most informed about current developments in a dispute. However, the policy on delegation and on the co-ordinating role of the media advisor is to be followed at all times.
We hope that those local relationships and knowledge can be effective in assisting the best possible coverage for the PSA by:
Key steps in facilitating media coverage
Ensure the Media Advisor is well-informed prior to a dispute attracting media attention. The Media Advisor will need a thorough background on the key issues of the dispute and the likely time and nature of any activity that might attract media attention.
Ensure you have the Media Advisor’s contact details in any situation where media contact is likely. This should include office phone no, mobile phone no, fax and e-mail address.
When asked for comment by a journalist, respond with the contact details for the media advisor or the PSA spokespeople, as appropriate. Factual information, such as the names of people who may be in a picture being taken by a newspaper photographer or the likely duration of a picket or start-time and destination for a march, should be given.
In the case of a journalist looking for a quote which represents the PSA’s position on an issue, provide contact details of the appropriate spokesperson. Where possible this should be sorted out beforehand.
Note: This is not a matter of not being allowed to talk to the media, so responses such as “No comment” or “I’m not allowed to talk to you” are not helpful or accurate.
Rather, “I’m not the media spokesperson on this, you should contact …..etc” or “The best person for you to talk to about this is ….. etc” are effective ways of facilitating the contact.
Journalists will often pressure PSA officials, on the pretext of deadlines, to give comment on the spot, irrespective of having been offered contact details for spokespeople. Please do not accede to this pressure and stick to the media guidelines detailed here. All professional journalists understand this kind of approach despite occasional protestations.