Great media coverage means planning ahead. There are many ways you can prepare and take advantage of events in the media.
Organisations plan for all types of risks from the loss of customer data to fires through to natural disasters. In some cases, those disasters are predictable – you can be prepared for bushfire or cyclone seasons. But other incidents such as industrial accidents or data breaches are less predictable.
On a typical day, journalists receive dozens, if not hundreds, of press releases and story pitches. With publishing timelines contracting and the news cycle moving faster than ever before, journalists are looking for stories that can be turned around quickly and free up their time so they can focus on long-form stories and research. That’s a tough balancing act. And one thing that simply doesn’t help is an embargo.
I got the job of editor for Macworld Australia after many years of being a freelance contributor to the magazine. The combination of relationships with the publisher and experience got me that job. But, the publisher has decided to shutter that operation and I lost a long-timer retainer client. While that hurt, the pain was short-lived.
Doing your homework for interviews and preparing your facts are critically important for a media spokesperson.
This is why media training, conducted every two years is so critical as it will help you learn what facts you need to check, obtain, create and use to tell your story in the most compelling way.
There are many facts that you’ll need to be armed with and ready to use if required in a media interview, depending on the topic. These may be technical facts about your products or about turnover, growth plans, staff numbers, customer numbers etc. Some of these facts may be in constant flux, so you need to be aware of what you’ve said previously and what you’re saying now.
Google indexes news and makes it easy for anyone at anytime to Google your name, company name or product and read news reports going back years. If you said in 2017 that you had 10,000 customers in Australia, but the number is still 10,000 in 2019 reporting, then that’s easily noted.
It’s important that you know your most up-to-date stats at any time (check with your team regularly) and are consistently building on your message. If in fact, you only had 9,700 customers in 2017, but by the end of that year expected to have 10,000, then say you have 9,700 customers to the journalist – don’t round up numbers. Be accurate and build a truthful account of your business.
This is crucial for many reasons and for startups hoping to achieve coverage in major publications be aware you’ll be asked for your turnover. Why? Because your claims will be verified – if you say you’re the largest in Australia, but in fact haven’t made any money yet, then the reporter will wait till you’ve proven your idea is recognised by customers and investors. If you do secure coverage, your turnover will be on the record so if you’re on track to become the next Atlassian, Canva or unicorn it will be touted.
Many media groups also run startup and fast growth awards so make sure you’re always operating with full disclosure. If you apply for these awards, the reporters will check your facts and if they find that they don’t match what you said in the past, you can be assured of not only failing to win but failing to be trusted again.
Reputation is crucial – it’s better to wait till you have a great story to tell, than jeopardise it.
An elevator pitch is a short description of what you do that can be delivered to a stranger who knows nothing about you or what you do in the time you share an elevator ride.
When you’re talking to a time poor journalist, you’ve only got 15-30 seconds to get their attention and make them want to know more about your business, product or service.
The aim is to win them over and make them want to know more before the elevator has reached the floor and the conversation can be continued.
An elevator pitch assumes that the person listening to it knows nothing about who you are, or what you do.
At Media-Wize we can help you put together an elevator pitch that while is planned, when delivered sounds spontaneous, non-robotic, the words natural and easy to remember.
And you’ll need to memorise your pitch, so practice it while in the car, in the shower and on your family and friends.
It’s also useful to have a couple of different versions. A long version that lasts about a minute and a one or two sentence snapshot.
Developing your elevator pitch will help you focus on your communication objectives and your point of difference.
The bridging technique is a crucial part of media training and an essential tool to master to control an interview. It is the ability for the interviewee to steer the conversation from any question that takes them away from their goal during the interview. This could be a negative or unhelpful question, or simply a question that doesn’t enable the interviewee to share information that may be more valuable to the reporter.
It’s important to understand that journalists don’t always know what questions they need to ask to get the best story from you. So, by helping bring their attention to an interesting fact they can hone in on what might be a better story. And if they don’t, at least you know you gave it your best shot.
Once you know what the bridging technique is, you’ll be able to spot it done badly often. Politicians are often a great example of how not to do it.
The key to bridging successfully is to acknowledge the question, answer it matter of factly and then build a bridge to where you want to go. For example, “That’s interesting, BUT what’s most important to remember here is that…” or “Yes, I’ve heard that, BUT what we’re noticing at the moment is …”. Then reinstate your key message(s) or shift to a topic the journalist isn’t yet focused on and share your knowledge/insights.
But, don’t forget the most important aspect of the technique is to make sure you acknowledge or succinctly answer the question FIRST before you build a bridge to where you want to go.
Media training is more an art rather than a science and therefore different tactics work for different people, which is why it’s important to practice mock interviews before you enter a real one.
The benefit of media training with an experienced practicing journalist and PR expert is that real world scenarios you’ll likely encounter can be rehearsed and messages refined to ensure you’re prepared to maximise the potential of every interview secured.