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Friday, January 05, 2007

Point 3 -- How to relate to reporters/journalists

Successful journalists have a combination of traits including inquisitiveness, the ability to absorb large amounts of information quickly, and the capacity to distill this knowledge into written, audio and visual expression that captures the hearts and interests of the target audience readership. In other words, they are much like successful exceutives and decision-makers -- they don't have a whole lot of time to waste on extraneous self-serving trash, and they receive more than their fair share of that junk.

Your challenge of course is that your story is of interest to you, and not so important in the bigger picture. Getting to the top of the pile and into print and on electronic media can be difficult.

But remember, as well, that the people you are most intered in reaching are potential clients often in specialized fields-areas. You don't need to be on the front page of the New York Times or on Oprah to achieve your objectives; in fact these sources of publicity could do you more harm than good. And while the general rules are the same when relating to all journalists and reporters, your opportunity for success is much greater if you aim your interests closer to your 'home' target market.

Some additional thoughts:

  • Sometimes timing is everything, and sometimes you can control (and sometimes you can't) control the timing. Writers are often under great pressure to fill space at deadline. For a few hours/minutes, your otherwise 'junk' news release may find its way to the top of urgency. That is why it isn't necessarily harmful to send out frequent news releases even though the news isn't always earth shattering. Your time may just come. (The news releases of course still should be relevant and useful, regardless of when or how many times you send them.)
  • You may know there are themes planned; or there are newsworthy topics happening on which you can 'piggyback' your announcement. Sometimes seasonal issues lend themselves to obvious news releases. A paradox, for example, is that the media often has 'space to fill' in the quiet period around Christmas and in the summer, so your chance of getting press is greater at these times. On the other hand, your decision-makers may be away, as well.
  • When a reporter/writer calls, drop everything, take their call, and answer their questions/requests. Remember, however, you are on the record (you should never assume you are off the record until you have much experience and confidence with the writer), so everything you say can and may be used against you -- including out of context remarks. You can see how this can be a minefield when you are dealing with a negative or contentious topic. If you think you may experience negative publicity, I recommend you waste no time calling an expert in media relations and communications -- of course, in a crisis, you are not going to want this expertise by looking on the internet or Yellow Pages. It is best, always, to plan ahead and prepare.

How important is all of this stuff? Obviously many companies and business leaders succeed outside the limelight of publicity -- there is an argument for avoiding attention while you quietly do your thing. But if you take the time to understand and relate effectively to news media personnel by seeing the world through their perspective, you are more likely to achieve satisfactory results.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

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