That’s a real shame. From a business standpoint, the media can be one of our greatest assets. This is especially true when they reach out to us for a story they are working on. That sort of free publicity not only gets our business in front of readers and viewers completely free of charge, it also portrays us as experts in our field.
Yet, all too often, business leaders make it difficult for the media to give us the type of exposure we cannot even begin to buy. I know it as fact, because all too often when I was working on articles I came across businesses who seemingly did not want the free publicity -- at least that’s the way they acted.
I found it frustrating and it often led me to look elsewhere for sources not only for that particular article, but for other ones in the future. All of it prompted me to develop a list of guidelines for those companies who, for one reason or another, want to avoid free press. Of course, if you are looking to be a frequent topic in news stories, do the opposite.
Here is my list:
10 Ways to Make Certain Your Company Doesn’t Receive Free Publicity
- Don’t Return the Media’s Calls. I know you are busy. We all are. Members of the media are especially rushed, particularly when they are on deadline. Keep in mind that many of them are working on multiple stories every day and sometimes they only have a few hours to devote to each before the story goes on the air or in the paper. I can’t tell you how many times I left a message for a business leader, only to get a call a week or more later -- long after the story went to press.
- Make Stuff Up. Please be honest with us. If you don’t know much about our topic or if one of your competitors would be better talking about a topic, let us know. It’ll earn you respect with the media and pay long-term benefits.
- Require Us To Talk to Your PR or Marketing Staff. Don’t get me wrong, I love public relations and marketing people. Theirs is a very important job and the media doesn’t mind calling them. However, when it comes to actual articles or broadcast stories, charge your staff with setting up interviews with the actual leaders they are trying to talk to. It’s not that we don’t like them; it’s just that our readers or viewers are so tired of marketing spin, they want to hear from those who don’t spin -- even if they are not as polished.
- Speak in Sound Bites. Please don’t tell us just what you think we want for our final product. Tell us more. We have the ability to edit and often the best quotations come from the sentences around what you think we want.
- Agree to Answer Questions, But Only in Email. I rarely would agree to this format of questioning for a couple of reasons. It makes it too easy for interviewees to give “canned” answers and it completely eliminates the ability to get good background and to easily ask follow-up questions. Plus, it is a very slow process.
- Ask to See the Article Before It Prints. Your mechanic doesn’t want you looking over his shoulder as he tunes your car. Same with journalists. They are professionals. Trust me, for practically all articles or news stories, they have absolutely no interest in misrepresenting you or making you mad. Good sources are too hard to find. I may let you review my work once, but odds are that next time I need a source in your industry, I’ll call someone else.
- Don’t Let Us Know About Your News. Contrary to what we might want you to believe, journalists are not all-knowing. If you have something interesting happening at your business or something that will appeal to a large number of people, please let us know. The best outcome is that we’ll do a story on whatever it is you suggest. At worst, you and your business will be on our radar for when we do need a story.
- Be Narrow Focused. When we interview you, keep in mind it’s probably part of a bigger story. Try to expand your answers outside of your own store or business. Think about your industry and your entire region, not just your community. Not only will it give us more to work with, it will potential expand your reach and your reputation.
- Hide From Us. Did I mention that the media is often in a hurry? That’s why it is important to make yourself available. Share your cell phone number and make sure your cell phone’s voice mail works. Nothing is more frustrating that getting the “this user’s mailbox is full and can’t take new messages” report. Also, give your staff members permission to share your cell phone number with the media.
- Be Unfriendly. Ever wonder why some companies are the ones you see in story after story? It’s because reporters like those business leaders. They are kind, responsive and what we call “a good interview.” Honestly, reporters do play favorites, so it is in your company’s best interests to be a favorite.