Weirick Communications President Amy Weirick recently offered business owners several insightful tips for writing effective press releases and building good relationships with reporters and bloggers. Now, let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve taken her advice and the media is contacting you for interviews. What’s your next move?
As a reporter, I can assure you that how you respond to media inquiries is just as important as the response itself. I’ve provided a few pointers about both below.
1. Be prompt. There’s no surer way to annoy members of the media, especially those working on tight daily deadlines, than taking your sweet ol’ time responding to their request for comment or an interview. And a delayed response is especially frustrating when you’re the one who sent us a pitch or press release, we didn’t reach out to you. Which brings me to my next tip.
2. Be ready. If you’ve alerted the media, be ready to give an interview that day. It’s as simple as that. (More times than I’d like to count, I’ve gotten a press release and immediately followed up, only to be told the person I need to speak with is on a business trip or vacation for the next three days/week/whatever.) Not every reporter or blogger who gets back to you will want to talk the same day, but it’s likely someone will. And if you value that someone’s attention, now and down the road, it’s best not to leave them hanging. Ask (politely, please) how long they think the interview will take. If you absolutely can’t spare the time they need, get something on the calendar as soon as possible.
3. Be wordy. One-word answers are fine when you’re ordering a pizza. (“Do you want extra cheese?” “No.”) However, they’re not ideal when giving an interview. Obviously, not every question requires a verbose answer (“Did your shop open in April 2009?” “Yes.”), but if you’re asked, say, how business is going for you these days, a short response will not suffice. It doesn’t make good copy or good soundbites. Elaborate! Tell them business is good, or bad, or so-so, and then tell them why.
4. Be trusting. Once you’ve gone on the record, the media’s work begins. Other than answering follow-up questions (and/or verifying facts with a fact-checker, depending on the media outlet), your part is done. Allow the reporter or blogger to get to work telling your story, and have faith in their abilities. Most reporters are happy to go over statements you’ve given (to ensure their accuracy), but it’s very unlikely they’ll allow you to see a story before it’s published. So don’t ask.
5. Be direct. If you’ve been misquoted, if you’re name has been misspelled, if a piece has any factual error in it whatsoever (“I don’t like the intro” or similar criticism does not fall under this criteria), contact the reporter or blogger responsible for it. Tell them what the error is and give them the correct information. Respectable media professionals pride themselves on being accurate. They’ll probably be very willing to run a correction or change text online immediately.
6. Be nice. If you’re happy with a piece about you or your business, show it. You don’t have to send flowers, but an email or thank you card goes a long way, trust me. A reporter’s work is open to lots of criticism, so a kind word every now and then really brightens their day. Plus, small gestures like that help build good relationships. And who doesn’t want a friend in the media?