Ever wonder why some executives repeatedly win positive media attention for themselves and their companies? Reporters on deadline return again and again to sources they know. But how do you get on their source list in the first place? How do you position yourself as an industry expert, trend setter, or market leader?
You do it by understanding what reporters need. Introducing your capabilities to the media to lift your profile is a combination of persistence and preparation.
Begin by making a list of those media outlets and reporters covering your industry; locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Look for opportunities to contact reporters when you read, hear or see a story they’ve authored that’s in your field. If they’ve done a good job, tell them. Also be prepared to tell them what you might have added to the story.
Identify areas of legitimate news that reporters covering your industry can hear from you first. If you’re a source of information, even if it isn’t directly about your company, you become valuable to the reporter. Be ready to add valuable perspective to the story—educating the reporter in effect and by doing so, becoming a source for future stories. Every reporter, but particularly beat and industry reporters, thrive on such relationships.
Once you’ve introduced yourself to reporters, make sure you understand how to stay valuable in order to serve both your needs. There is much to gain for the executive who speaks to the public through reporters, and of course, there’s more to lose as well. For those executives who understand their role in shaping image, direction and mission, and who can communicate larger ideas effectively to a reporter, the rewards are substantial. .
Once you’re ready to become a source for reporters, there are some basics to keep in mind. Here are some tips to help you once you’ve earned that media spotlight:
Accessibility counts (a lot): If you’re going to work with the media, you’re going to have to accept that reporters live by the deadline. That means the interview they absolutely must have is the one they need now. If you’re going to accept the interview, accept it immediately so the reporter won't move on to the next, more accessible source. You can set the interview for any time before that deadline, once they know you will talk.
Interview the interviewer: Any legitimate reporter will be amenable to answering a few questions prior to the interview—especially questions designed to put you at ease about their credibility or their purpose. At minimum, ask the reporter what he or she wants you to contribute, who else has been or will be interviewed, and when the reporter’s deadline is. Don’t ask specifically what questions will be asked.
Know what you want to say: This is called messaging and it’s a vital part of the process of speaking to any reporter. You are not speaking with a reporter just to answer their questions. This is your opportunity to deliver a message of your own. Take it!
Less is more: Speaking to reporters requires getting to the bottom line as quickly, and as quotably, as you can. Deliver the supportive data, facts and backup information after you’re sure you’ve delivered your bottom-line message. Try to make your message as accessible as you can to the greatest number of people (no jargon!)
Practice, practice, and practice: It takes a while to get comfortable with developing messages, reducing them to a few well-spoken statements, and staying on message through questions. Start with local and trade reporters. The more you do it, the better you will get. No matter which reporters you speak to, trade, local, regional or national, print or broadcast, follow the same process.
You don’t need legions of public relations staff working for you to begin your media outreach. You can build your own relationships with reporters and begin your own outreach. Give reporters what they need—access, good quotes and reliable information—and you’ll be rewarded with access to their audience. Seize those opportunities for yourself, your department and your agenda.
Aileen Pincus is President of The Pincus Group, a media training firm near Washington DC that also provides speech, presentation and crisis communications training. A former local and national television reporter, Senior Hill Staffer and communications executive, Aileen and her staff provide executive communications worldwide. She can be reached at http://www.thepincusgroup.com