The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) had amazing stories of progress to tell, but the relationship with the media was challenged. Responses to media inquiries were mostly reactive and went untracked. DOC needed to work on press relations to not only respond to media inquiries coming to the agency, but also get the good news out about progressive advancements in corrections that were good for incarcerated individuals, their families, staff, and the public at large.
First, Jacque set up new processes and timeliness standards for media inquiries. By establishing guidelines for both media (subject matter, deadline, etc.) and DOC team members, information flowed to media faster, which enables members of the press to get the proper information and interviews needed for the specific stories they were developing. Media inquiries were monitored to ensure that accurate and consistent information was provided, as well as the timespan between first inquiry and delivery. A media monitoring service was secured to track media coverage. Trends and issues were identified, and agency leaders were briefed when needed to raise awareness, discuss, and address. Finally, a media relations manager was hired to ensure accuracy, responsiveness, as well as understand what reporters would need next to share information about progress as well as problems.
Press relations, and trust, improved at once and positive media mentions rose by 114% in less than a year. And because communications roles were adjusted during hiring to ensure cross-training for video and writing was spread across the team, more colleagues were empowered to find and develop stories about the work underway about the progressive reforms in corrections by staff and the incarcerated individuals they support.