Secrets of successful media relations: Number 4 — Stick to the “big three” requirements of reporters.

by Eddie Reeves on August 16, 2009

Okay, now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of successful media relations.  It’s time to actually contact the journalists who you want to cover your story.

Remember the lessons from our first three installments of this blog series:  You talk to reporters only AFTER you have ensured that: You have a newsworthy message (Secret #1), you have targeted that message to the audience you need to reach (Secret #2) and you have crafted that message in a way that tells a compelling story (Secret #3).

Okay, you have those bases covered.  Now it’s time to call, email or meet face-to-face with the reporter.  

How can you maximize the chances of the interview going well?  The key is to remember that the reporter’s job is not to cover your story for your purposes.  The reporter’s job is to cover your story for his/her purposes.  The more you can help him/her do that efficiently and effectively, the better the outcome for you.

Specifically, you must abide by the three cardinal principles of what reporters require:

  • Reporters require relevant information.  This means information relevant from their perspective, not yours.  They are inundated with e-mails, text messages, phone calls, faxes, etc., the great majority of which are an utter waste of their time.  If you’re going to contact a reporter, make sure you share information that is directly related to the specific areas he/she covers.  If you are not sure about that, it is your job (or that of your media relations professional) to find out.
  • Reporters require responsiveness.  Reporters have always had high-stakes, high-stress jobs.  “Truth be told, that is a big part of what attracted most of them to the profession.  But today their work has become more of a meat grinder  than ever.   The amount of complex information that they must gather, digest, simplify and communicate is exploding.  At the same time, the number of journalists covering that information explosion is plummeting.  That means they only have time to interact with people who either have the answers they need or can get them as quickly as possible.  Your phone messages and emails should be short, sweet and to the point, and you should make sure they have at least two or three different ways to contact  you for follow-up info. 
  • Reporters require honesty.  It NEVER pays to lie to a reporter.  In today’s information-rich environment, the truth virtually always comes out, and it does so quickly.  Even if the truth doesn’t become clear in the short term, once you start down the primrose path of prevarication, you will soon find yourself sliding down the slipperiest of slopes.  One lie will beget two more, then five more, etc., leading to disaster.  You certainly don’t have to respond to all of a reporters inquiries, but at least be direct and honest in making it clear that you will not.

There is no guarantee that any interview or interaction with the press will turn out to your liking.  But if you make sure your actions are guided by these “big three” principles, you will succeed a heck of a lot more than you fail.

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