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The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with the Media

By Pam Lontos

 As a business owner, you probably know how important publicity is to the success of your business. But the truth is, many entrepreneurs, high-level executives and even marketing and public relations managers (and maybe you’re one of them) make crucial mistakes when dealing with the media – and then they end up on reporter’s block call or spam e-mail lists. The good news is, by being aware of the more common dos and don’ts of dealing with reporters and editors, there are many steps you can take to avoid these pitfalls!

Reporters, editors and producers are deluged with requests from hopeful business owners, corporate public-relations professionals, authors and other people seeking coverage. Their days are spent meeting impossible deadlines while doing copious amounts of work, all the while constantly communicating with all of those publicity-seekers.

So, if you’re ready to get the publicity your business deserves, here are 15 tried-and-true ways to get the most out of your media contacts, and ensure reporters, editors and producers answer your calls and respond to your e-mails:

1. Don’t forge ahead with whatever is on your mind. Do ask if the reporter or editor is on deadline. Journalists’ time is as important as yours, and their deadline pressures are horrendous. If they’re on deadline, ask for a good time to call back.

2. Don’t be self-promotional; Do make sure to share actual information with viewers or readers. Do give value-added tips, advice or information so that you will help improve people’s lives, offer insights or entertain. If you can achieve that goal every time, the media will always make time for you or even actively pursue you for interviews and articles.

3. Don’t say, “The answer is in my book/the products on my Web site/the report we sell, etc” rather than giving out the information during radio, TV or print media interviews. Don’t be seduced by the thought that people should pay the price of the book to learn what you think. Do view your interview as a way to show how valuable you and your thoughts and ideas are. That’s the best advertising you could possibly do to sell your business!

4. Don’t ask the reporter to send you his or her article so you can review and approve it in advance. Do provide follow-up contact information and offer to be available to clarify any confusing points or answer additional questions. Offer to help the writer check facts or review small sections of the article for accuracy.

5. Don’t fail to prepare for interviews or fail to familiarize yourself with the readership or audience. Don’t assume everyone should be interested in your subject matter, just because. Do make sure your subject matter appeals to the media’s target audience. If you are calling an editor at Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, make sure you’re pitching an article that fits with the homey, consumer-oriented material the magazine specializes in. Read the magazines you want to be quoted in; watch the interview shows where you want to be a guest.

6. Don’t ever nag the reporter. Do space out your calls so you do not become a pest. Use e-mail rather than expecting to connect every time by phone – many journalists rely on e-mail as a way to get work done quickly, and many let most calls go to voicemail anyway.

7. Don’t assume the reporter or editor remembers who you are. Do remember they deal with multiple sources and many different subject matters. Immediately identify yourself by name or by topic before launching into the purpose of your call – even if you spoke to the same journalist the week before.

8. Don’t expect the media to cover your topic when another story is dominating the news. Do be aware of what is happening in the news and tie your topic into those stories. Natural disasters, big trends such as the failing economy, harmful lead in children’s toys – the headlines will shape the media’s agenda. Do wait 24 hours to pitch your topic if you can’t tie it in with the news.

9. Don’t delay when returning calls from reporters or fact-checkers. Do understand journalists are on deadline and need to speak with you now. If you snooze, you may lose the chance for an interview.

10. Don’t call a magazine a week before a big holiday, such as Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, with your holiday-themed idea. Do remember that magazines put out holiday issues four or five months in advance. Time your pitches well.

11. Don’t leave your contact information off your press releases or e-mails. Do err on the side of giving too much information. Leave behind or mail in a business card. Send a follow-up email with your phone number. Put all contact information on your news releases.

12. Don’t just talk about what's important to you during an interview. Do answer the questions asked during the interview. You need to be responsive to the questions asked by the interviewer, or else the interviewer will be frustrated and never want you back. Also – you need to know for a fact that the information you’re giving out is accurate. Don’t give out information unless you’re sure of it.

13. Don’t demand the article mention your company, your products or the book you have written. Do be happy that you are being interviewed! Don’t try to overly control the outcome. You’ll seem pretentious or worse if you try to put conditions on the interview, such as insisting you are the first person quoted in the story or the only expert mentioned. High-and-mighty attitudes will get you dropped from the interview lists immediately.

14. Don’t complain if the reporter gets the slightest thing wrong in the story. Do be happy if the reporter includes you, even if he or she left out a point or quoted someone else more than you. A mistake that seems big to you may be small in perspective. Don’t ask for a correction unless it’s absolutely necessary.

15. Don’t contact the reporter’s boss – editor-in-chief – or the publisher if you're unhappy with the way the story turned out. Do let an interviewer or reporter know if you’re unhappy, but do it respectfully, remembering to listen during the conversation. He or she may say something that will change your feelings. Always try to work out the difficulty directly with the journalist – it will deepen your relationship in the long run.

Work these do and don’t practices into your behavior when dealing with the news media, and soon have the media relationships you’d always hoped for. Exercise a little courtesy and common sense, and you’ll have the reporters and producers seeking you out time after time.

Read other articles and learn more about Pam Lontos.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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