Editor's note: You can't effectively spread the word about your business without a stellar PR program. For tips on writing press releases, speaking to the press, getting publicity and more, visit our PR section.
Dan Hoffman had some bad interviews years ago, back when he was heading up operations at an ISP based in Hong Kong. He would read articles in which he was quoted and sometimes find that the published version of the interview had very different information than what he thought he'd discussed with the reporter.
So when Hoffman, now president and CEO of M5 Networks Inc., a $10 million, New York City-based provider of outsourced telephone systems, got a call to appear on Bloomberg Television, he decided he'd better get some help. Hoffman, 36, called his PR agency, Euro RSCG Magnet, to schedule some media training.
"A lot of people think that doing interviews effectively is a piece of cake," says former broadcast reporter Barbara Laskin, president of Laskin Media Inc., a New York City media training firm. "That's why I got into this business. I was a reporter and cared about getting the story right, but with today's fast deadlines, you can't always assume that the reporter is going to figure out what you meant to say if you're not clear about it from the start."
Being unprepared is just one of a host of mistakes entrepreneurs make when dealing with the media. Whether the result of popular misconceptions, bad media training or simply having no idea what it takes to be a good source, here are a dozen of the most common myths about being media-savvy.
Myth #1: It's important to put a positive spin on everything. Not every situation is positive, says David Margulies, who heads up Margulies Communications Group, a strategic PR and crisis communications firm in Dallas. In order to be truthful, you can't always put a bullish slant on the circumstances.
"The example I use in my speeches is the airline executive who says, 'Sure, the plane crashed, but it was right on time when it hit the mountain,' " he explains. "You need to deliver the information the audience needs to know." He advises being honest and sharing the information that is necessary and targeted toward your audience. "Stating the factors that contributed to the crash and giving a careful explanation of what will be done to prevent it from happening in the future would be a better response."
Myth #2: If you don't want to answer a reporter's question, change the subject. A popular media training technique is called "the bridge," and it works like this: If a reporter asks you a question you don't want to answer, you say something like, "That's a great question, but I think the more important point is . . ." That kind of question dodging, says Laskin, is one of the quickest ways to earn a reporter's ire.
"It's not a bridge to nowhere," says Laskin. "Even though the bridge can be an effective technique to insert your key messages, you still need to answer the reporter's question. If a reporter asks about your bad sales last quarter, you can answer the question and still include the information that's important to your company by saying something like, 'Sales were disappointing; however, our new line, which we're working hard on, is going to give us returns,' and explain how."