The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with the Media

By Pam Lontos

As a speaker, you probably know how important publicity is to the success of your business. But the truth is, many speakers, high-level executives and even marketing and public relations managers (and maybe you’re one of them) make crucial mistakes when dealing with the media – and then they end up on reporter’s block call or spam e-mail lists. The good news is, by being aware of the more common dos and don’ts of dealing with reporters and editors, there are many steps you can take to avoid these pitfalls!

Reporters, editors and producers are deluged with requests from hopeful business owners, corporate public-relations professionals, authors and other people seeking coverage. Their days are spent meeting impossible deadlines while doing copious amounts of work, all the while constantly communicating with all of those publicity-seekers.

So, if you’re ready to get the publicity your business deserves, here are 15 tried-and-true ways to get the most out of your media contacts, and ensure reporters, editors and producers answer your calls and respond to your e-mails:

DO remember that reporters deal with multiple sources and many different subject matters. Immediately identify yourself by name or by topic before launching into the purpose of your call – even if you spoke to the same journalist the week before.

DO make sure your subject matter appeals to the media’s target audience. If you are calling an editor at Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, make sure you’re pitching an article that fits with the homey, consumer-oriented material the magazine specializes in. Read the magazines you want to be quoted in; watch the interview shows where you want to be a guest.

DO make sure to share actual information with viewers or readers. Give value-added tips, advice or information so that you will help improve people’s lives, offer insights or entertain. If you can achieve that goal every time, the media will always make time for you or even actively pursue you for interviews and articles.

DO provide follow-up contact information and offer to be available to clarify any confusing points or answer additional questions. Offer to help the writer check facts or review small sections of the article for accuracy.

DON’T say, “The answer is in my book/the products on my Web site/the report we sell, etc” rather than giving out the information during radio, TV or print media interviews. Don’t be seduced by the thought that people should pay the price of the book to learn what you think. View your interview as a way to show how valuable you and your thoughts and ideas are. That’s the best advertising you could possibly do to sell your business!

DON’T ever nag the reporter. Space out your calls so you do not become a pest. Use e-mail rather than expecting to connect every time by phone – many journalists rely on e-mail as a way to get work done quickly, and many let most calls go to voicemail anyway.

DON’T delay when returning calls from reporters or fact-checkers. Understand journalists are on deadline and need to speak with you now. If you snooze, you may lose the chance for an interview.

DON’T call a magazine a week before a big holiday, such as Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving, with your holiday-themed idea. Remember that magazines put out holiday issues four or five months in advance. Time your pitches well.

Work these do and don’t practices into your behavior when dealing with the news media, and soon have the media relationships you’d always hoped for. Exercise a little courtesy and common sense, and you’ll have the reporters and producers seeking you out time after time.