What to Do When the Reporter Calls: Five Tips for New (and not-so-new) Business Owners
New business owners often miss out on publicity opportunities because they think it's a nuisance to talk to reporters. In fact, publicity can be far more valuable than advertising. Media exposure can give your business profile a huge boost. You'll attract clients, customers and recruiters. More important, you gain credibility as an "expert" when you can post a copy of a published article on your website, office wall, or portfolio.
Getting attention can be challenging, so when you get a call, be ready! I've been interviewed many times and also conduct interviews as a freelance writer. Here's what I've learned.
1. Answer invitations promptly. Typically journalists email or call to set a time for an interview. These days they may post announcements everywhere from specialized public relations websites to informal networking groups. Clarify when you are available and how you can respond to a particular story.
2. Get creative! Before you say, "I'm not an expert in that area," look for an angle that allows you to showcase your expertise in a new light.
I'm often interviewed for relocation articles that deal with the stress of moving. But I can direct my expertise to articles that don't deal specifically with relocation. For an article about party sales, I might suggest questions like, "How can you sell to newcomers?"
3. Translate thoughts into stories. Suppose you're interviewed for an article, "Do successful business people really practice positive thinking?" Puffy statements like, "As a successful retailer, I think it's important to think positively," won't make good sound bites.
If you can say, truthfully, that sales tripled when you began a new visualization ritual, you've got a story to share. Or if you find the opposite -- success arrived on your most pessimistic, throw-in-the-towel day -- you've got another story.
4. Combine candor with care. Writers need meat for their stories, not just bare outlines. Don't make a writer tease out details. However, be aware that you're speaking on the record. Writers enjoy loose, informal conversations, and it's fair game to get you so relaxed you begin spilling information you wish you hadn't. When answering tough questions, choose words that puts you and your company in a favorable light.
5. Never, ever ask to see a copy of a story before it's printed. That's a major taboo in journalism and you'll come across as clueless. Writers rushing to meet deadlines rarely have time to share stories. They may have interviewed two dozen people for a single two-column story and they can't go back and call each one. Additionally, editors have the final say. Editors can delete whole sections, rearrange stories and change the writer's words. Writers themselves often have to grit their teeth and say, "Well, it goes with the territory."
Bonus tip: Write a brief email note to thank the writer, even if you're not one hundred percent pleased. Include a note indicating your willingness to be interviewed for other stories. "I also am available for stories on psychology and family life," you could add. A real estate agent could say, "I am available to comment on events and places that attract newcomers to the area."
Publicity is worth a whole lot more than the paper it's printed on. Become friends with the news industry and treat writers kindly, and you'll be surprised at the rewards that come your way. That's certainly been my own experience.
I offer one-to-one consultations on career strategy.
About The Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.
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