Public relations seems to be a mystery to many corporate leaders. They are somewhat delusional about what constitutes "news" and how to tell a good story to the media. I often run into communications managers in companies who are trapped in a very "old-school" mentality of how to execute a public relations program, and stymied by their leaders who haven't spent any time with journalists and don't understand their world.
The way news is reported has changed dramatically over the past ten years, but the basic formula for an interesting story is the same. Whether the reporter calls you or whether you call them, it's good to know what to expect during the exchange.
Before participating in an interview, be sure you know the answer to these questions:
- What makes your company different, unique or trendy? Do you offer products or services that are better than the competition?
- Are you willing to be a true thought leader? Say something interesting, funny or groundbreaking.
- Are you ready to quickly respond to national stories that deal with your industry?
- Is your spokesperson trained? Do they know what to say and how to deal with tricky questions?
- Does everyone in your company know what to do if a reporter calls?
Journalists are motivated by a few things that you need to be aware of. Sometimes they are asked to create a controversial story where none exists. This is unfortunate, but it happens.
It's OK to ask them these questions so that you can be a better spokesperson:
- What is your deadline?
- Who else are you talking to for this story?
- What is your angle? (you may choose not to participate if the angle is controversial or shady)
- What do you know about our company? (Be prepared to provide some background information)
Reporters are people. Get to know them and help them do their jobs. Be prepared as best as you can to help them tell a compelling story and don't waste their time with mindless corporate jibber-jabber.
Claire Celsi is a communication consultant in West Des Moines, Iowa.