Myth #3: You should participate in every interview that's requested of you. No way, says Margulies. Before you get on the phone or in front of the mic and start talking, you need to know the context of the story. "Find out what, specifically, the story is about," he says. "There are some stories you don't want to be involved in, and some stories where there might be legal implications."
Margulies recommends getting some background on the topic of the story and deciding if there's a good business reason for doing it. For instance, it might be a good idea to participate in a profile of your company in an industry trade publication. However, if a reporter is doing a general story that isn't really relevant to your business or your key audience, and which could position your business in a negative way, you may want to pass on participating in the story.
Myth #4: Reciting how many other media interviews you've done impresses journalists, producers and editors. "One word: overexposed," says Karen Friedman, head of Karen Friedman Enterprises Inc., a media training firm in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Friedman says that most reporters are looking for fresh voices and ideas. "In many cases, if you rattle off that you've been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and on all the major networks recently, the reporter might think that you have nothing new to say on the topic or that your story's been 'done.'"
Instead, advises Friedman, say that you're an experienced interviewee to let the journalist know you're familiar with the interview process. That will likely make him or her more comfortable with you as a source. If you're asked for particular outlets in which you've been featured, then provide them.
Myth #5: A good news release is the best way to get media attention for your company. Suggest sending out a one-size-fits-all news release to Victoria D'Angelo, owner of D'Angelo Home Collections Inc., a $4.5 million home accessories designer, product developer and distributor in Orangeburg, New York, and she'll give you a passionate lesson in Marketing 101. "You can't send out one news release to the media any more than you can send out one set of options to customers and expect them to purchase your products," explains D'Angelo, 49. "A number of books give you the idea that you can print a magic flier and the world will respond. The generic approach is a waste of time."
D'Angelo has found more success with creating customized pitch letters for magazines and talking points for interviews. The secret, she says, is finding out which topics are of interest to the media and putting that information in the easiest format for the journalist to use. Says D'Angelo, "If you're not willing to do the homework, you can't expect great results."
Myth #6: Mention your company, product or book as often as possible. "This is one of the examples of media training gone haywire," says Friedman. "It's annoying when the expert mentions the name of the book in almost every sentence, and I'm convinced that it usually backfires." She advises mentioning the book when it's appropriate, trying for two or three mentions in a broadcast or one credit in a print piece.
Myth #7: Whenever you don't want something printed or broadcast, just say it's "off the record." Saying something is "off the record"--usually used when a source gives background information to put something in context and doesn't want it to be attributed--is risky because a journalist doesn't have to abide by it, says Laskin. "The truth is that reporters dig. That's what they should always do. If you're naive enough to give them sensitive information that shouldn't be shared publicly, you can't be sure they won't use it. If you say it, it's fair game."