Media Relations Can Grow Your Business
By Pam Lontos
As a business owner, you’ve probably heard media exposure can
greatly help your company, especially during tough economic times
when marketing budgets are low and competition is high. The truth
is, learning to leverage the power of the media can help you stand
out from the competition without expending your resources. If you
are new or inexperienced in dealing with editors or reporters, you
might feel intimidated. But there’s absolutely no reason to believe
you must have superpowers or be famous in order to approach the
People interview people they like. If you can develop a good
rapport up front, that’s half the battle. Media professionals, like
everyone else, gravitate toward someone they enjoy talking with. You
can adopt strategies that will cause interviewers to come back to
you time after time.
First and most important, be respectful of the reporter or
editor’s time. Deadlines are 24/7 these days, and you are one of
many people approaching the media with articles, ideas and pitches.
Media professionals are among the most overtaxed and pressured
people you will ever meet. If you have initiated the contact, your
first question should be, “Are you on deadline?” If they say “Yes,”
never sabotage the relationship by forging ahead anyway. If they are
on deadline, ask, "When would be a better time to call you?" No need
to risk alienating or annoying them. You can always call back.
You don't want to be someone reporters interview once and
never want to again. Here are a few ideas to help you relax and make
sure editors and reporters accept your articles, book you as a guest
on shows or interview you for pieces they are writing or
with the journalists you would like to cultivate relationships with.
Follow their work, and let them know when you enjoy something they
have written. Comment on something specific. Watch the TV broadcast
or the talk show. Read the magazine, newspaper or blog. Listen to
the radio show or podcast. Familiarize yourself with the content.
Look at the ads to see what audience the advertisers are targeting.
Once you become familiar with the audience, you will
understand what the audience wants. This will allow you to tailor
your content, making it more valuable to the reporter or editor.
Providing great content is the best way to motivate reporters to
contact you in the future! Another good way to target your material
correctly is to ask the reporter or interviewer if there is anything
else you need to know to better understand his or her audiences.
That way you can fashion the content of your remarks as you prepare
for an interview or, if you are writing an article, you can strike
the appropriate tone.
Reporters, editors and talk-show hosts will respect you for
the extra effort you make to ensure your ideas are valuable to their
readers, listeners or audiences.
Be observant during
and pick up personal details. If the reporter is heading out the
door to pick up children from soccer, make a note of it. Remember
to ask about the children's progress next time you call. Also, be on
the lookout for items of interest to a soccer parent. You can
e-mail or mail the reporter a parenting article about involvement in
children's sporting activities, for example. This costs nothing,
and therefore there will be no breach of ethics on the reporter’s
part to accept it. At the same time, he or she will appreciate your
Reporters and editors often spend most of their time in the world of
ideas. They like to think and talk about challenging ideas. When
you are engaged in conversation, remember to bring up the topic they
like to talk about. In a similar vein, if you see a subject come up
in the news you know will interest a reporter with whom you are
developing a relationship, copy and send it to him.
Don't let months
pass without contact.
Send birthday or holiday cards to keep the relationship going. If
you stumble across an event or idea related to an area of the
reporter or editor’s interest, call and leave them a quick voicemail
about it. They will get the message that you are thinking about
them as people, not just using them for your own narrow purposes.
The goal is relationship building. If the reporter or editor
you would like to get to know is local, you can drop by the office
(with appropriate notice), suggest coffee or even invite him or her
to lunch. And when you do this, be sincere about it. Treat the
reporter as you would any other friend or acquaintance you truly
value. If it’s all about you, if you’re in the game just to advance
yourself, this will become all too readily apparent, and you will
alienate the very people you are trying to impress.
When you are
interviewed, give good quotes. Strive for simple, declarative sentences. Use concrete
images. Answer the question. Don't go off on tangents that interest
you. Remember the reporter is working hard to gain the knowledge he
or she needs to write a good story. Or the radio host is looking for
that pithy quote the listeners can relate to. Help the reporter do a
good job, and once again your effort will be appreciated.
Be enthusiastic on the phone. Even if you're not doing an
interview for broadcast, the reporter will appreciate your passion
for the subject. Stand up and smile – your energy and cheerfulness
will come across. Laugh or get the interviewer laughing.
If you've written a book on the subject you are being
interviewed about, offer to send it. This will help them learn more
about the topic they are researching. You can also offer, say, five
books as giveaways if your interview is with a radio reporter.
Radio stations love promotional ideas.
At the end of an interview, ask about other stories the
reporter is currently covering. Explain how you may be able to
contribute and offer a unique angle that may interest their
audiences. Always remind the journalist that he or she can call you
back with questions. And make it clear that you’re eager to be an
accessible source of information in the future.
Don’t forget to
maintain your relationships once they are established.
Again, thoughtfulness is the key. Sometimes the reporter will call
you as a source, but you just aren’t right for that particular
subject matter. You can still be helpful by suggesting another
person to call. Or, if the reporter needs a second or third source
to interview, suggest names of other people. If the story is not
something you can help with, but you can steer the reporter toward a
more productive source of information, the reporter will remember
this and be grateful.
relations is all about relationships. If you develop, nurture and
maintain good relationships with reporters and editors – you will
become the expert source they seek out time after time, which will
help you stand out from the competition and boost your sales.
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