7 Tips for Working With the Media

It seems that more and more businesses – large and small – are looking to the media (including social media) to generate awareness for their businesses and their products. Makes sense. Media coverage, whether traditional or online, can be a great source of exposure not only because of its cost-effectiveness, but also because the things that others say about us tend to hold more credibility than the things we say about ourselves (e.g. our advertising messages).

Media coverage is not “free,” however. Time is money and it can certainly take time to research the appropriate media for your messaging; establish relationships with editors, journalists, writers and bloggers; pitch yourself to the media and respond to interview opportunities. Following are 7 tips for making that process as effective and productive as possible:

1. Develop solid relationships long before you “need” them. You don’t want your first interaction with the media to be when you’re not prepared, or when the coverage may not show you in your best light. If you’ve developed a solid relationship with the media outlets that matter to you, you’ll be in a much better position to respond to requests that may not show you – or your business – in the best light. There will be a relationship of trust established that will serve you well.

Establishing a solid relationship means being available when the media call. Responding promptly and respecting media deadlines. Being forthright and honest. If you develop a reputation for being someone the media can rely on to be truthful and helpful, you will be much more likely to be perceived credibly during sensitive situations.

2. Know the media that’s likely to target you and the media that you’d like to target. Be proactive in your dealings with the media. Develop a list of the media where you’d like to receive coverage as well as a list of media that are likely to be interested in your business and its activities; your local media outlets are likely to be your best bets. Make sure you know who the editors are. If the list is very large, you’ll want to do some prioritization.

You might want to develop a tiered list of these media outlets, with the top tier representing places most likely to cover your business and its activities. Then learn as much as you can about each of these media outlets, the type of information covered, the tone, the reporters, etc. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to target your own pitches to meet their needs and the more comfortable you’ll be in responding to their inquiries.

3. Create and focus on key messages. You should have both general key messages about your business and its products/services that you use for every interview and specific key messages that you develop for each media interaction. Your general messages should focus on the messages that you want the media – and, ultimately, your target audience, to know about you.

By developing and focusing on two to three key messages that you’d like to communicate, you can be sure to include these messages in each of the interviews you do and each of the pitches you make. Very often, at the end of the interview, the reporter will say something like: “Do you have anything else to add?” or “Are there any additional points you would like to make?” That’s your opportunity to say: “Yes! – and a chance to make sure that your key points have been conveyed.


4.
Be a “broken record.” While you can never anticipate with 100 percent accuracy what questions a reporter is going to ask you, you do know with 100 percent certainty what your key messages are. You should refer to those key messages again and again throughout the interview. Don’t be afraid to be repetitive. Keep in mind that interviews are made up of “sound bites” and you can never know which comments the reporter will decide to use. If you make the same key points again and again, albeit in slightly different ways, you can be more confident that your messages will reach the audience.

5. Maintain “control.” Don’t be intimidated by the media. They need you and your cooperation as much as you need their unbiased and professional handling of whatever issue it is that you’re being interviewed about. So, while you should be aware of media deadlines and attempt to honor them whenever possible, never feel pressured to respond to a media inquiry. Always take the time to make sure that you’ve gathered the background information and facts that you need and that you’ve developed your key messages.


6.
Take advantage of live interviews. Most spokespeople dread the live interview, never realizing that the live interview is their best opportunity to ensure that the points they want to make are made – and received by the audience. What you say is received verbatim by the television or radio audience and that provides you with total control. Take advantage of that control by maintaining focus on your key messages. If you study seasoned spokespeople, you’ll see that they can respond to just about any reporter’s question by “looping back” to one of their own messages with such statements as: “I don’t have any information about that, but what I can tell you is (insert key message),” or “We haven’t found that to be true, but (key message). Learn to love the live interview. It’s every spokesperson’s best media opportunity.

7. Make the reporter’s job “easy.” Provide background information and additional materials, especially if your message is complex and you’re considered about the reporter “getting it right.” The added benefit of providing background information, though, is that reporters are busy people and if you’ve provided good information, that’s well prepared and not too “self-promotional,” it’s likely to be used.


For more information, see our white paper: 35 PR Blunders and How to Avoid Them.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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