No matter what business you’re in, seeking to attract positive media attention should be right up there on your list of ‘to do’s’ – after all, you can’t have your competitors grabbing all the headlines, especially if you know that your product or service is superior and better meets your markets’ wants and needs.
While there are hundreds of articles online regarding the various strategies you can use to obtain column inches for your business, many of those articles often DON’T tell you what NOT to do, which can almost be as important as knowing what you SHOULD be doing.
Specifically, there are a ton of things you need to avoid like the plague when dealing with the media, including some practices that get you noticed for all the wrong reasons and others which will seriously damage your chances of building a long-term mutually beneficial relationship with journalists, editors and other members of the press.
So, here are some big ‘no-nos’ when it comes to media relations:
1. Refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer
While persistence pays in some circumstances, you have to respect the fine line that exists between a simple ‘follow-up’ and outright harassment. You’ll damage relationships if you can’t accept ‘no’ for an answer, particularly when there’s probably a very good reason a journalist thinks your story isn’t suitable to run. Apply your persistence to an ongoing media relationship building effort, instead of burning your bridges over one measly release.
2. Long winded releases
One page of great information, comprised of a killer headline, strong newsworthy angle and bulleted list of key points will stand you in far better stead than pages and pages of waffle. When journalists want more info, they’ll ask for it.
3. Stretching the truth
Once you’ve embellished the truth for the sake of getting coverage, a journalist will never trust you again. Be honest and if you have a good story, that alone will make you stand out.
4. Do your homework
Only approach journalists who cover your industry/area. It will get people’s backs up if you pitch your business story to the lifestyle editor or think that a shotgun approach will get you some traction, somewhere. Carefully do your research before you approach journalists so you know that who you’re speaking to will be interested in your story and will be able to help you.
5. Be prepared, look professional
If you send a web link to a journalist, make sure it works! Nothing is more frustrating or time wasting than dead links on websites or blogs. You must look professional at every turn, so double check your links/site before you send a journalist there.
6. Cold calls aren’t courteous!
Many journalists view unsolicited calls as intrusions and far prefer it if you email them before you call.
7. Don’t try to sweeten the deal
Be aware that ‘freebies’ or gifts over a certain dollar value are often banned by many media outlets. Journalists want good stories, not free ‘stuff’ that clutters up their office. One exception to this is free food – particularly for those who work late into the night- be clever and creative and remember, while it might garner you some brief attention, it won’t necessarily guarantee you publicity.
8. Zero appeal
You have to accept that while your new fandangled process for packing pickles might rock your world, the general news-reading public will probably be less than impressed. Remember you have to have wide audience appeal for a media outlet to want to cover your story.
9. Gimmicks get very old, very quick
Gimmicks generally fall flat because they’re either
b) not sensational enough or
c) are only being used for gimmick’s sake.
Remember that journalists are busy professionals who want the facts, quickly and without extraneous ‘stuff’ that will waste their time and/or slow them down.
10. Do what you say you will
If you want the press to help you out, you need to hold up your end of the bargain too – which means, make sure you are vigilant about following up on journalists’ requests – for example sending more information if they have asked you for it. It’s imperative you respond quickly and professionally, otherwise you’ll be viewed as a time waster.
The best ways to get on the media’s good side take time, research and care– but it’s well worth the effort. Firstly, work on building up strong relationships with the key journalists in your industry. Then, acquire the knack of identifying and communicating a good story about your business or industry.
Finally, be aware that journalists will be far more eager to hear from you if you abide by some basic rules of courtesy and demonstrate an understanding of their needs, as well as the demands they’re under. Keep all this in mind and you’ll find it far easier to stay in their good graces.