Working with the media: How to talk to them, and when not to

We spend a lot of time following up press releases with the media, and we’re always conscious of how difficult and daunting this can be for a small business operator.

Here are some tips:
• When you call your contact, make sure you have a good reason for doing so: checking that the press release got to the right person PLUS offering high-resolution images, inviting them to your event, offering them samples etc.
• Don’t ask if your press release will be used. This is a conversation that wastes their time.
• Respond quickly and efficiently to requests for images or further information. I have seen other PR agents lose important editorial because their clients were too slow to respond.
• If the message you receive is equivalent to “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”, then respect that and mark that contact as one that needs no follow-up in future. We have a few contacts who run stories without any follow-up from us, and prefer to do it that way.
• Research online news-sites carefully. Some accept press releases, others draw their news from their sister print publications. Many professionally based and government sites will only print news about non-profit enterprises. So don’t waste your time chasing contacts that can’t deliver.
• Be willing to give something away to readers or viewers – samples, or a prize for a competition, or an e-book. This will encourage outlets that can’t publicise a commercial enterprise but can offer a free service or resource to their audience.
• Ask for advice. Most people love to be asked for their expert advice or opinion, so if you’re struggling to get traction with a media message, contact one of your sources and ask for their advice on where and how to pitch your story. This brings them to your attention in a positive way and can bring out in them a desire to help you.
• Offer yourself as a contact for input in your niche area. By establishing yourself as a reliable source of authoritative information, you will increase your chance of getting your media messages picked up. But make sure you can deliver what you offer.
• Above all, focus on giving the media what they want. If they want you to go away, then go away – it doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed you or your story. If they say they’re not interested in your story, they may be willing to discuss alternative angles, so have a few suggestions up your sleeve that are directly relevant to the publication or channel.