Free Advice from a Reporter

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be cooperative, helpful, and pleasant when a reporter contacts you about an article. I know I’ve blogged about this before but somehow the topic just keeps resurfacing.

Here’s the deal. You have one business which, if you’re a business owner that likes to keep on top of things, you need to be constantly promoting. A news story or feature article about you and your business is free publicity and involves almost no work on your part. Conversely, most reporters have multiple stories that they can choose to write about and  tight deadlines. Given this, there’s little to no doubt that they will choose the story that will be the easiest to arrange. Making it difficult for them to write their article is like killing the goose who lays the golden egg. It just doesn’t make sense! Yet people do it all the time.

Three things you can do that are guaranteed to lose you that free publicity:

  • Have a poorly designed website (i.e. your name, address, and phone number aren’t listed anywhere on it), no LinkedIn profile set up, and no Twitter or Facebook account, forcing the reporter to have to Google you and follow those endless trails to gather information, wasting more precious time.
  • Be sure to tell the reporter that you can’t be personally interviewed in time for them to meet their deadline. Refuse to do a phone interview because “I’ve done that before and the story didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.” Or you can ask them to email you the questions so you can answer them at your leisure. For good measure, add that they should reschedule the article to run at a time that’s more convenient for you.
  • When they ask about taking a photo of you and/or your business, explain to them that you can’t make yourself available for even five minutes because “I’m too busy this week”. Just for fun, add that you don’t want an article to be published without a photo because it won’t be as good. Then tell them that you don’t have any photos of your own to provide because “Professional headshots are too expensive” or “I really don't take good photos.”

Bonus Tip: Act surprised when they take a deep, calming breath, say it doesn’t sound like the story is going to work out this time, and slam down the phone!

You may think I’m exaggerating but it’s surprising how many times I’ve had these types of conversations (or similar versions of them) with a business owner. My advice? Do whatever you need to do so you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when you get an email or phone call regarding a potential story about your business.

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