5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts with the Media

Discover ten tips to get your business in the headlines.

Did you know that there are literally thousands of media outlets from newspapers to magazines to local and national TV shows, seeking story ideas on a regular basis? They are constantly seeking news angles, novel ideas and unique information. For small business owners, this translates into countless opportunities to get your company in front of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of potential clients.

Ten tips to get your business in the headlines:

DO’S

1. Focus on the News. Determine what is newsworthy about your company. This is by far the most difficult thing to do – even for PR pros. Elements of a newsworthy story are categorized in seven ways including conflict, human interest, impact, novelty, prominence, proximity and timeliness. Perhaps your company has a celebrity client or you have a great human interest story about one of your customers that was dramatically impacted by your product or service that is not self-serving.

For example, one local company garnered over thirty local media placements and twenty national placements on their best practice of keeping a rainy-day fund, which helped their company, survive the lean times. What are you doing as a business that would be of interest to your counterparts?

2. Do your homework. Research what reporters have written articles on topics you can add to or comment on that would be beneficial for your business. Remember, reporters are the intermediary between you and the story you want told – provide great content and you will soon become a trusted source.

3. Start locally. Your local newspaper, magazines and television stations are a great starting point for garnering media attention. Identify reporters and producers from local newspapers, magazines and television stations that cover small businesses or topics that relate to your products and services that have a local appeal.

4. Build Relationships. Contact reporters with an introductory letter, outlining your story idea and expertise in a succinct manner. Limit the letter to one page. This letter should not be an advertisement about your business, but an informative piece with news-related content geared toward the outlet you are contacting.

Hint: Reporters like to see that you’ve read their stories. Referencing a story they wrote and providing additional feedback can be a great way to open up a line of communication.

5. Follow-up. Make sure to follow-up with each reporter by phone a few days later. Prepare a script before you pick up the phone.  Ask them if you have called at a convenient time. Proceed with your pitch. Good luck!

DON’TS

1. Lie or mislead a reporter.  Relationships with reporters are built on trust. The first time you lie or mislead a reporter will be your last.

2. Talk about your competition. Don’t knock the competition if you don’t have to – unless it is part of the agreed communications strategy. Why give your competitor space or airtime in an article about you? There’s a difference between differentiating the company and slamming the competition. Reporters love horse races and slighting the competition can have an extremely negative consequences.

3. Say “no comment.” There is nothing worse than an interview that focuses on what you can’t discuss with the reporter.  It is frustrating for both sides. State in a matter-of-fact tone that you can’t answer and explain why – never slam the door with a “no comment.” If you say “no comment,” it says to a reporter, “I’m guilty, about things you don’t even know about.”

There are alternative phrases that sound much less defensive. For instance, if you get stuck with a tough question we suggest saying, “I’d rather not discuss that now.”

4. Go “off the record.”  The rule of thumb for this is pretty simple. If you are not sure you can say it – don’t.

5. Assume they are out to “GETCHA.” Most reporters’ goal is to get a good, interesting story – that’s where you come in. Reporters want to go back to their offices and say, “You would not believe the impressive widget ABC Company makes…” It is your job to bring something compelling and newsworthy to the interview. That said, remember you are talking to a reporter, so don’t say anything to a reporter you wouldn’t want to see printed on the front page of a newspaper.  

For more information or to set up a free consultation, contact Adele R. Cehrs via e-mail at [email protected].

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