Beginning in high school we learn about the advantages of living in a country where the press is free from government oversight. We learn about how publications sustain their reputations and build their credibility by creating a virtual wall between editorial and advertising. Indeed, we are quick to stand by those notions right up until it does not work in our favor. If you’re going to try to use the press to grow your business, it’s important to understand how to interact with reporters and editors.
Don’t Ask to Approve the Story
If you’re fortunate enough to have a publication interested in doing a story on your company, don’t blow your opportunity by asking the reporter if you can review the story. Getting any press at all is difficult when publications and news shows are pressed for space and time. Aside from sounding like you want to censor the story, it’s a red flag to the reporter that you are not press savvy. Unless you or your company is influential in your community or industry, it may preclude you from getting future calls for quotes or input from that reporter.
Do Make Yourself Available
No matter how many times the reporter calls, make yourself available. Reporters have bosses, fondly known as editors. Often editors ask for more information or for a different angle to a story. Often the reporter will need to double check facts such as a date or the spelling of a name. If you’re not immediately available, respond as fast as you can, because the reporter’s other boss is known as deadline.
Don’t Ask for Editorial Coverage When You Advertise
If you place an ad for your business in a publication, don’t ask for or expect editorial coverage. Nothing makes editors and reporters cringe more than when they see someone from their publication’s advertising department heading their way.
Do Be Diplomatic About Errors
If a publication, Web site, or news report makes an error when reporting about your company, be diplomatic when approaching the editor. First thank him or her for the coverage, then point out the error. If the article is Web-based, the editor has the ability to go into the site and make a correction. If it is a print publication, the error may warrant a mention on the Corrections page. In the case of television, critical errors can be corrected on air by a show’s anchor or host. In that case, use the opportunity to further establish your relationship with the show. If you handle it well, the reporter may keep you in mind for future stories when he or she needs to quote someone in your industry. If you throw a tantrum, the reporter will think twice about featuring your company in future stories.
Don’t Let a PR Firm Ruin Your Relationship with the Press
When hiring a public relations professional or firm, do your due diligence on exactly who is going to handle your account. You may get wined and dined by the owner or top execs, but it may be a low person on the totem pole making the media calls. Make sure that person is familiar with your business, your competitors, and the industry as a whole. Ask for a press list of media targets because that will give you an idea of their understanding of the market. Do some role playing and have the firm “pitch” you to see if they actually understand what your company does. If you have contacts in the media, reach out to see if they are familiar with this person or firm and find out if they have a good reputation with reporters.