Working with the press and media — whether it’s online, broadcast and print reporters and editors, bloggers, freelance writers, and others — is an important part of being a business. “Working with” can include everything from media interviews and being quoted in topical articles, to being included in product round-ups.
If you’re a big established company, you probably have someone or a department to help handle this. But if you’re an entrepreneur, startup or small business, you probably haven’t worked with the press before.
This article will help you prepare for working with the press and surviving media interviews. Again, if you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, the Media is an important channel to help grow your business.
1. Be Available
Make it easy for the press to reach your company. You can do this by any of the following ways:
- Designate a point person (or department) for all media queries to go through.
- Include contact information (email, phone and social contacts) on your website, such as a Contact or Media page.
- Be sure only authorized, media-trained spokespersons talk to the press.
2. Respond Quickly and Succinctly
“If a reporter reaches out to you, respond quickly — before they get another source instead of you,” says Steve Friedberg, Principal at MMI Communications, a corporate communications consultancy.
“Today’s deadlines may be hours or even minutes; wait too long and the reporter will have found and used some other source — and the reporter may not feel like taking a chance on your availability for some future article.”
At minimum, acknowledge queries ASAP, so the reporter knows you’ve seen/heard their message. When answering media questions Friedberg offers these tips:
- Lead with your most important point.
- Strive for succinct, clear, easily quotable statements rather than long stories.
- If the media offers you a chance to provide information in writing, don’t assume they’ll run everything you write.
- If you don’t know an answer, it’s OK to say, “I’ll get back to you.”
Friedberg also advises that if you decide to decline answering, say “I’m sorry, but I’m not available to comment at this time.”
What you shouldn’t do is reply with, “No comment.”
“That’s something said by shady politicians and other folks who have something to hide. You don’t want to be positioned like that. It’s a small difference, but it’s a significant one,” Friedberg explains.
3. Pitch Stories Based on Value to the Readers
“Think value-add,” advises Cheryl Snapp Conner, CEO and Founder, SnappConner PR, a strategic communications and PR company based in Salt Lake City. “Before making a single pitch, train yourself to let go of self-interest and think purely about the aspects of your story that would be interesting and helpful to readers.”
Keep in mind that it’s rarely ever about the company or business products and services; it’s about the value to the reader.
4. Don’t Criticize the Competition
“Keep the conversation upbeat and focused on your company or product strengths rather than your competitions’ weaknesses,” says freelance journalist, writer and analyst Pam Baker.
Remember that every time you mention or allude to your competition, you are actually promoting them rather than your company. That’s because reporters will then go look at your competition to fact check what you said about them — and may end up reporting on them instead of you. Your goal is to keep the reporter’s attention on your company.
5. Don’t Try to Control Press Interactions
“Don’t insist on having final review of the article or your quote before publication,” says Steve Friedberg. “Reporters are professionals, and if you trust them enough to speak with them, trust them enough that they’ll get it right.”
The exception is when you want to offer quick fact-check of quotes or facts about your company.
6. Be Clear, Especially On Complex Subjects
Keep in mind that the reporter may be familiar with your industry but not your company; or this may be in fact their first foray into your industry, technology, or niche. As a result, give full company and product names, and have URLs ready to email.
Also, be sure to explain industry terms and abbreviations.
7. Remember, You’re Building Relationships
In responding and reaching out to editors and reporters, think long term. You are looking to create and cultivate relationships with editors and reporters by being available, showing you respect to their content requirements and their time/scheduling constraints.
There’s a lot more about building and sustaining relationships with the press — but the media interview tips in this article will help you get off to a good start. Following this advice increases your chances of getting press coverage, and that coverage being more accurate.