When I started this company 14 years ago, Public Relations wasn’t a focal point of our new firm. Back in those days, we farmed out press releases, press conferences, and even media training. My background was in the television media business, so I was more focused on the advertising side of things in our industry.
Then over time, as I listened to seasoned pros and watched many in the PR realm do their thing, I saw value in us branching out into this interesting arena as a service for our clients. You would think that the media, with its ongoing need for news and information, would be eager to print or air just about any PR piece we’d send them. I mean they need a constant influx of information to fill their pages or their newscasts, so why should it be such a challenge to get media exposure for our clients. Well, it isn’t that easy and has taken a constant effort to build an efficient and effective PR side of our agency.
Decades ago, I heard the saying, “It’s a bad day when 60 Minutes knocks on your door.” Though that show is almost as old as I am, that statement still rings true.
While it’s unlikely any of you reading this piece will ever get contacted by the CBS News Network, you never know when unexpected reporters or challenging topics will cross your inbox or connect via your mobile phone. Even kind and friendly reporters, just out doing a casual story, can very easily catch you off guard and take you into a conversation you may not want to have.
Recently I was meeting with a client who was about to experience her first live television interview. It was set to be a friendly meeting in a studio. In spite of those expectations, I wanted this person to be prepared. I coached her on some basic information to help frame the interview – questions I thought would be asked, what to wear, how to sit, and some other tips. I also spent time encouraging her to answer the questions she wants to answer and not always the question that is asked.
Most of the time those in media have an agenda. I’m not talking about the kind of agendas being put forth by some in politics. Instead, it could be as simple as – tell a good story, or get this sound bite as quickly as possible so we can get onto the next assignment. Obviously, they have something they want to accomplish. You also have an agenda. You also have something you want to accomplish.That’s the kind of give and take you should utilize whenever you have any opportunity with the media.
Hopefully the crew from Dateline or 60 Minutes never comes “knocking on your door.” But, if they do, or if you ever find yourself in a regular interview setting, be sure you make it a point to talk about what is important to you. Knowing how to engage the media in advance is generally the smartest plan.
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