When your business gets a call from the media, do you cower in the corner of your office? Well, you might not want to admit to that, but certainly, we've all become a bit gun-shy over the past few years when it comes to the media. After all, it seems no topic is off-limits these days.
That's really too bad, because the media can offer huge opportunities for your business-if handled properly, that is.
Many business owners are familiar with their media options. They contact the correct reporters and send out professional press releases.
But seeking free publicity isn't the only way your company gets noticed. Sometimes a reporter needs an expert for a story he or she is doing, or maybe your business gets involved in a controversy, is the victim of a crime or disaster, or plays a major role in an important business development.
Fortunately, most of us will someday have the opportunity to use the media to tell our stories to the audiences important to our company. Here are a few tips to help you to prepare for that golden opportunity:
1. When a reporter calls, take time to research the reason behind the interview request. Find out exactly who is calling, what organization he or she represents, and why that person wants to talk to you. If the interview request is unsolicited and you feel a bit uneasy about the motivation behind it, ask politely what the reporter's deadline is and if you can get back to him or her shortly.
2. Treat media representatives courteously. Reporters aren't always out to get you, and being profiled in a news feature can be great for business. So be engaging and interesting, and stay focused on the purpose of the interview.
Agree ahead of time on the length of the interview and the exact discussion topics. If your schedule changes, notify the reporter immediately. Breaking an appointment at the last minute won't exactly inspire the reporter to say wonderful things about you or your business.
3. Prepare and rehearse. State your messages clearly and concisely, and be able to support them through facts and figures, anecdotes, expert opinions or examples.
4. Understand the news media. Try to learn something about the various media that might contact you-print, audio, video and Web-and when the day comes that they contact you, be as open as possible. Avoid saying "no comment," but also realize that with rare exceptions, nothing you say is off the record. If you can't respond to a tough question, state the reason, such as "The agreement is currently being reviewed by my lawyer and my accountant, so I'm not certain of its status."
When you're being interviewed, give the journalist your undivided attention. Keep interruptions to a minimum, yet don't get so carried away that you offer too much information about the topic.
5. Control what you can. Be on the lookout for ploys designed to create controversy, and always bridge a negative point with a positive one.
Journalists have exceptional memories and will recall if you were candid, accommodating and prepared for the interview. So consider any interview a prime opportunity to favorably influence your company's image.
And remember, when it comes to your business, no interview or contact with the media is too routine or too trivial. You should take every chance you get to influence the public about your product or service.
Leann Anderson is the owner of Anderson Business Resources, a Greeley, Colorado, company specializing in customer service, marketing and business etiquette. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org