Career coaching article:
What to do When the Reporter
Five Tips for New (and not-so-new) Business Owners
by Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
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
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.
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