So you've put yourself “out there” with a public relations campaign. Your dealings with the media now become critical. Those relationships with the media can make or break your public relations efforts.
Here's how to get the media to love you:
- When the media calls, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. That's right. Maybe you're having lunch. Or you're in a meeting. Guess what? The media waits for no one. I advise my clients to tell assistants to interrupt them at any time if the media calls.
- Treat the media like gold. Answer their questions in a forthcoming manner, in a respectful, pleasant tone. Do not disparage others and be careful about making negative comments. Do not lie or provide exaggerated claims. Just like you, media people appreciate those who take the high road.
- Be realistic about coverage. A reporter can interview you for an hour, yet you might have only one line in the newspaper. Or none. Depending on how the story goes or how much space is available, or entirely at the editor's whim, any of the above can happen. The reporters owe you nothing for your time. Take it in stride and be pleasant and understanding in future dealings with them.
- Lose control. You have control over advertising; you have minimal control over PR. That's the difference between paying for something and not paying for it. A media piece may not contain the “story” that you would like covered. It may focus on an angle you don't like. The reporter determines what angle to use, depending on his/her needs and information you provide. Also, it probably won't be 100% accurate. If it is 90% accurate, you're doing great. Take it in stride and don't complain to the reporter.
- Stop complaining. Sometimes, after a phone interview, you will be misquoted. Unless it is truly a libelous or slanderous comment, you should take it in stride. Do not complain to the reporter, or you will certainly not be getting any press again, at least not favorable press, in that media outlet.
- Give several contact numbers, including day, night and weekend, to the media (including mobile, vacation/out-of-town contact info). The journalist could be in a different time zone, or might want to call you before or after your business hours.
- Be realistic about when the media will cover you. Typically, daily newspapers, radio and TV have a one-day to three-month coverage window. Magazines have a 2-3 month to one-year window. The lead times vary depending on editorial calendars, seasonal coverage and breaking news. In addition, the media chooses when it wants to run a story; you have little control over when it's run, unless it's tied in with a timely event, such as a holiday. While you would love to see yourself or your organization on the six-o'clock news or the front page of the business section, the media may have other stories slotted for those options, or may need to fill a space in another segment. Similarly, you might want your story to run immediately, but the media may hold it for months, if there is no urgency in running it.
- Pick up your own copies of your articles or tapes. Do not ask the reporter for a copy. He or she will be offended! Pick up a copy of the publication or call the media outlet to order a copy or tape.
- Spend time reading, listening to the radio and watching TV. These activities are a part of most of our days. But if you plan on pitching a particular media outlet that you're not familiar with, research it first (that means reading a publication, listening to the radio or watching that particular show). Once you do your research, you will have a better idea of the types of stories covered and what has received coverage already. Remember, the more you understand what each media outlet likes, the more likely that you will create great media angles that they love.
- Thank them. Like you, media people enjoy a pat on the back once in a while. And no one can ever get too many thank-yous. And to be remembered even more, put it in writing.
By putting effort into developing media relationships, you'll increase your chances of current and future public relations success.