Maximize Your Company's Exposure by Building Relationships with the Media

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You already know that the media is the best avenue for promoting your business because it adds credibility to your message, positions you as the expert, and, best of all, is free. So you’ve done a few interviews and gotten quoted in a few articles, but those just left you hungry for more. Now, how do you expand on the contacts you’ve already made? The key to getting more exposure is building relationships with the media professionals.

A steady media contact is like a key to the city of free publicity. Reporters will actually start calling you for interviews and quotes instead of the other way around. But developing such relationships is not that simple; they take work on your part.

The good news is that when you master these relationships, you'll find them to be much easier to take advantage of for publicity than convincing a new media person that your message deserves to be heard. Use the following tips to build your relationships with the media:



Give Excellent Phone Interviews.

In dealing with the media, most of your interviews will take place over the phone. But that doesn't mean you don't have to make a good first impression. Yes, you can wear jeans and a sweatshirt for your afternoon call or even interview at a messy desk, but you can't sound incompetent. When reporters can't see you, they will draw all their conclusions about you from your tone of voice and your word choices, so don't take these interviews lightly.

Before the interview, prepare for the call. Take time for yourself and write down the main points you'd like to cover. Use this as an opportunity to relax, collect your thoughts, and make a few notes on a 3 x 5 card. Avoid reading scripted responses from a pre-printed sheet. You want to sound natural and honest. Plus, the reporter will always be able to tell when you're reading.

Also, seek a quiet spot for the interview. If your office is noisy and busy, close yourself off in a room without distractions. With a few notes ready and all your distractions put away, you won't struggle through the interview; you'll sound relaxed and confident.

When the phone rings and the interview starts, stand up and smile while you talk. Standing as you would if you were giving a live presentation raises your energy level, and you'll be more alert than if you were sitting. Additionally, a genuine smile radiates through the phone line, and the reporter on the other end will feel the joy in your voice. Both of these techniques can make the difference between a mundane interview and a great conversation. They build a rapport that influences the reporter to keep you in mind for future stories.

Another way to build a relationship in a phone interview is to be respectful and show the reporter that you care. Ask him or her if you're talking too quickly, because reporters always take notes by hand. Slow down your pace so he or she doesn't miss any points. Also, ask nicely if he or she will mention your business information. Don't be pushy; remember, the reporter decides how much room you get in his or her story. And never request a copy of the story for your approval. The reporter doesn't answer to you. But don't be afraid to show interest by asking for a copy of the magazine or a tape of the show after publication or broadcast.

As the interview starts to wrap up, inquire about other stories the reporter is currently covering. Explain how you may be able to add to them, and offer a unique angle that may interest his or her audience. Let the reporter know that he or she can call you back to ask additional questions, or provide the reporter with other sources. And show him or her that you're eager to be an accessible source of information in the future.

Add Integrity to Your Message.

Reporters love accurate sources with factual information. By conveying your message with integrity, you can score a space on their contact list.

Start by sticking to the facts. Don't overload the reporter with tons of unnecessary information, and always back up your claims with numbers. For example, instead of saying, "A majority of my clients…," try "Eighty-five percent of my clients..." And always be forthright. If you want to be quoted in someone's story, don't answer a question by saying, "You'll get the answer to that when you buy my product."

Never be afraid to give too much information away. Many times, people fear that if they disclose meaty details about their business, no one will need it. In reality, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make with the media. Think about it like this: in a one-page article, you might get two or three quotes. Or if you're on a radio or television segment, you might get three minutes of actual talk time. There's no way you can ruin your wealth of knowledge in that small space.

Remember, the more people get, the more they want, and it's the same for the media. When you provide them with tons of information, they'll be sure to come back for more because you practically gave them the first story.

Personal experiences also add integrity to your message. They place you in the real world, doing real actions, rather than just sitting on the set of a television show or on the other end of the phone line. Reporters love to hear firsthand accounts relating to the topics they're covering. Your experiences add a personal, unique touch to the story.

You also want the reporter to know you're an approachable person, so laugh with him or her and be friendly. Personal experiences differentiate you from all the other interviewees. So use a good story, and the media will remember you in the future.

Finally, always speak with authority. Don't use weak language like "I think" and "maybe," and use the word "you" as often as possible. Add benefit statements to your facts, and eliminate technical jargon and out-of-date phrases. Not everyone knows as much about your topic as you, so always explain things as if you're doing so for the first time. You want reporters to understand so they can convey your message to their audiences.

Look Your Best.

The television world revolves around physical appearances. So when you get booked for a TV show, your appearance is everything. How you sit or stand will send a message about you as a person and about your business…so make sure the message is the right one.

First, you have to plan what to wear. As a general rule, think basic. Women should stick with simple suits, blouses, and tailored dresses. Keep the busy prints, accessories, and jewelry to a minimum. Colors like blue, green, and gray are more flattering than black, white, and red, which make you look washed-out. You want all the attention to be on your face, not on your wild outfit. Finally, go for natural fabrics like wool, cotton, and linen so you're more comfortable.

Men should choose basics as well. Wear dark, but not black, suits paired with lighter shirts. Avoid shirts or ties with patterns, as they may look funny on screen. Red or burgundy ties are best. Again, wear natural fabrics, like wool and cotton, for comfort. Essentially, simple clothing keeps your face and your message at the center of attention.

During the interview, use good posture. Sit up straight or stand tall, but don't stiffen your body. You want to appear relaxed and confident, not uptight. Don't rock or swing or pace. Moving too much will make you appear nervous. Keep your arms and hands loose, not crossed over your chest. And use hand gestures to emphasize your points.

Next, where do you look? As tempting as it may be, don't stare at the camera. Look at the interviewer and pretend like the camera doesn't even exist. Eye contact is always good. And show your enthusiasm by sitting forward, not back in your chair. When you're on television, looks should always be a top priority if you want to get called back for more interviews.

Leave a Lasting Impression.

Media professionals always need reliable sources of information to develop their stories. When you develop relationships with them, you can be the person they call for quotes. Energy and friendliness during phone interviews let the reporter know that you're excited about talking to him or her. Integrity lets the media know that your message is unique and your information is accurate and credible. Looking confident and pulled-together on television puts the focus on you and what you have to say.

Make the effort to build relationships with the media, and they'll know they can rely on you as a source. When you use these tips and make their jobs easier, you will get more interviews, more quotes, and more free publicity for your business.

About the Author

Pam Lontos is owner of PR/PR, a public relations firm that specializes in professional speakers and authors. Having been an author, speaker, and former vice president of Disney's Shamrock Broadcasting, she knows the ropes of getting good publicity and how to use it to really boost your sales. Call for a free consultation at 407-299-6128.
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