Last week, we started by highlighting the benefits of having a relationship with the media. This week, we will conclude with 7 ways to build better relationship with the media.
Make yourself available
Sometimes last year, I was at TVC for a brief internship. I was assigned to the business desk of the media outlet. During my stay there, there were frequent needs for experts’ opinion on some economic issues and we always had them on. One particular person stood out to me because he was always available to explain economic issues to the in-house reporters. I am sure if you watched Channels TV, or read newspaper reports, you’d have seen some quotes attributed to certain people, as well as their designation. For instance, a Ms Shade Oluwasoga could be explaining a point to a journalist. If Ms Oluwasoga was a CEO of a company, her name, the name of the company and what the company does goes into the story to highlight her role to the story. What her company does, as well as her role in the said company serve to give credence to her expertise and to show her credibility in handling the said story. But, as with the experts aforementioned, if Ms Oluwasoga has not made herself available, we probably would not have heard about her. So, to be a source to journalists, you have to make yourself available.
You could call in business reporters into your office to introduce yourself to them and offer few specific suggestions about stories you could, to the best of your qualification, qualified to offer expert opinion on. Why do you think many politicians do press conferences or media roundtable with select journalists? The more you put yourself out there, and the more credible you are the more exposure for your company or brand.
Grant interviews to journalists
From my experience, I have seen many business people run away from doing press interviews. One of the few people in the business world who engages well with the press is probably Mr Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holding and UBA Group and the Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation, the parent to Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.
I have friends in the start-up scene that would never grant interviews to the press, for one reason or the other. Doing interviews gives valuable coverage for your company and yourself. It is helpful for the future too because the journalist whom you had been friendly and helpful to when she/he requested an interview with you will always remember you whenever she/he needs a quote. Note: you do not have to grant an interview if you do not want to, so please do not feel pressured to do so.
To guide against being misquoted in interviews, give yourself time to prepare for such interviews. Provided the deadline permits them, you can ask the journalists to leave the questions with you and you call them back with your responses when you are ready. If you are afraid of saying the wrong things, you can ask them to leave their email addresses so you can respond in an email.
Pay attention to the media
To interact successfully with the media, you need to understand how stories are told. Aileen Pincus advises that you “become a sophisticated consumer of news. Read, listen, and watch news reporters with an eye toward issues you might contribute something to. Watch how experts are used to move a story forward and how concisely they can frame a point.”
This is particularly important if you want to be referred to in the future. A reporter’s job is to deliver news in a short, concise manner, your job as the source is to “essence of your point, rather than forcing reporters to heavily edit and select your points for you,” according to Pincus. Decide quickly what points you have to offer and offer them as clearly as possible.
Engage with reporters on the social media
One of the reasons I love the social media is the engagement. I could engage with a lot of people as quickly as possible and vice-versa. And thanks to the social media platforms such as Twitter and the others out there, you now have means to stay up-to-date on journalists’ interests to interact with them.
Here’s something you should know though, keep your interactions with them as informal and genuine as possible, especially if you want to build a relationship that goes beyond your professional expertise with them. I have a very few people on Twitter who have become friends to me, even though at first, our interactions were based on professional expertise.
Also, please note that you do not want to bombard the journalists on your timeline with news about your company or product; you don’t want to come off as being pushy or desperate.
Be helpful with your resources
Those who follow me on the social media would notice that I ask for information and resources online. My primary reason for asking is to encourage start-up founders/entrepreneurs share their resources with me with the hopes that all that I have discussed above could happen. As Jim Dougherty puts it, his blog post: 7 Ways to Build Better Relationships With Journalists written for CISION, “when building relationships, you can offer your resources and connections to journalists. Make an introduction on LinkedIn, offer a subject-matter expert for a topical interview. The difference being that you are reacting to the needs of a journalist rather than pitching a specific PR story.” Dougherty write about content marketing and social media on @leaderswest and he’s frequent contributor to the @cision blog.
I couldn’t have said it so clearly. Do not hoard information or resources. Be helpful, share.
It is my hope that these points have served to help you understand how to build a better relationship with the media. I have to say this though: in your efforts to engage with the media, do NOT, and I repeat DO NOT lie to a reporter/journalist. Why? Because the reporter depends on your expert opinion or data you are sharing with him/her. If you feed such reporter with falsified data, you have: one, damaged the reporter’s reputation, which is the currency she/he trades with and two, you have blacklisted yourself from becoming a source, not with her/him and possibly other journalists. So, in whatever you do, do not stretch the truth or lie.