How to Woo the Media

Every small business needs to advertise in some way to get their products in front of the right customers. Often this requires learning how to work with reporters and media professionals.

If you have been sending out news releases to alert the media to new products or events without much success, here are some suggestions that might land you in the public’s eye more frequently:

Know about current events in your community and see if there is a way to relate them to your company’s products and activities. Look beyond the community, in fact, to what’s in the news in your state, the nation and internationally. Media outlets are always looking for ways to make out-of-area news more relevant by relating it to what’s happening locally. Things from the outside may, in fact, affect what you do. Let the media know that. The issue of employment is currently a hot-item for news reports, whether you’re up or down. In most cases, the old saying that “any publicity is good publicity” still holds true.

Look for unique stories to tell. Within your ranks there may be good human interest stories that will get your name into the media. Many in the media refer to such “human interest” stories as “fluff,” but they nevertheless are always on the lookout for good ones. Be aware of special stories inherent in those you work with. Some of them may be dealing with unique family problems or have talents that would merit media attention. Is your company involved in charitable causes? Are there members of your group who are in the military? Plumb the depths and see what you can find.

Be as professional as possible. Press releases that contain typos and blatant errors usually end up in the trash can. Few reporters are willing to make a call to try to clarify the press release. Have two or more people proofread the press release before sending it out. Make your releases good to look at. Be certain each release has all the germane information, such as dates, times, etc., and include a telephone number or e-mail address that will direct queries to the person with the information. You might want to put together an informative packet that a news organization can put on file for future reference. Showing up in a media office in person to pass such a packet along couldn’t hurt.

Getting acquainted with the business writers/editors is helpful. And understanding the newsroom process is invaluable. You will impress those you hope to cultivate if you understand the realities of deadlines and the hierarchy that puts an editor more directly in charge of the day’s content than a reporter. An assignment editor usually is the nerve center of a newsroom, making many of the decisions on what, where and how items will be placed. However, it is the reporter who puts together that content. Develop relationships where you can, but don’t expect special favors. Remember that the number of choices editors and writers have on any given day far outstrip the available amount of press space or air time. Avoid last-minute notice of timely events if you want media announcements.

A picture may be worth a thousand words. But be sure photos, video or audio bits are good ones. Don’t waste the photo editor’s time. Provide good photo opportunities and describe them well so reporters and photographers/cameramen are not wandering around at a loss. Remember that the media is almost always in need of information before the fact, except in “live” story situations. If you call during your company’s big event, don’t expect a news person to arrive in time to clean up the dishes.

Buy advertising. Then when a news event relates to what you do, the editors and writers will remember your business name. Ad purchases do not position you for favoritism or guarantee spots in the news columns, but they make your name familiar.

Deadline is a firm fixture among the media. Be efficient, flexible and respectful in your interactions. In most cases, reporters have one day to turn around a story. If you miss an interview, it may not be convenient to reschedule soon. If you cannot meet a request for an interview, try to find someone else in your organization who can. Good old fashioned manners work with the media, as with anyone else. Some of the media, granted, have reputations for being pesky. But if you react in kind, the chances are that the word will get around the newsroom, squelching your chances for future favorable interactions.

Don’t just expect to deal with media issues when they arise. Work on a strategy and have a plan. Develop the relationships that count and understand how the media works. You may find yourselves in the headlines more often.

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Sherry Tingley

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  • Great tips, Sherry! I spent years in the news biz, and I can tell you that reporters/anchors/assignment editors are always on the lookout for solid information – and they want you to make things as easy on them as possible. By having press releases that answer all of the pertinent questions, you’re handing a reporter a story to turn for the day, and they’ll appreciate you for it! 🙂

    Kudos on mentioning the “networking” side of it, too. If you can get yourself on a local reporter’s beat call list, you’ll wind up giving soundbites (and, in the process, drumming up exposure for your business) on a regular basis.