Saturday, October 20, 2007

Don't Give Up

This year, I have been a full-time coach and speaker and a part-time radio host. I only spend a few hours a day at that job. I tell you that because there are probably other interviewers like me. You, as a prospective newsmaker or guest, are anxious to get booked or hear back from your publicist and you probably think, "Those lazy journalists! Why can't they decide if they want me sooner?"

So that you won't feel rejected or passed over... sometimes it just takes longer for us to get through the stacks of books, letters, emails and phone calls. I might book an author who sent me a book six months ago.

Here are ideas to get you to the top of the stack:

1. Call when we're there. Remember that morning programs likely have staff that work in the morning.

2. If you can find a mutual friend who can genuinely recommend you as a great fit, that helps. When we're trying to find a guest, an endorsement from someone we trust can make a difference.

3. Send an email and make a phone call. I work in an old building with unreliable connections, and the email spam filter is confining. Don't count on the fact that we get your emails.

4. Be persistent, but not pushy. Nothing turns reporters off more than someone who doesn't get the message. If the reporter does not show any interest or says "it's not a fit," move on. If the reporter asks for more information or asks you to call back in a few weeks or months, she's interested. Stay in touch.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Press Conferences

There are times when you might want to hold a press conference. When your company or organization has been hit by major crisis, for instance. Think Virginia Tech. Another time might be when good news is of such global proportions happens that people all over the world are interested. Think Iowa Septuplets or Nobel Peace Prize announcements.

Typically, the newsmaker will make a statement then take questions. It's good to let reporters in attendance know what's going on. Here are some ways to smooth your transitions.


1. My name is ___________________. It is spelled ________________. My title is _______________________. After I speak, our ___________________(title) will also speak. His/her name is _____________________ and it is spelled _________________.

2. After a short statement, I will take questions.


At this time, I welcome your questions. (Gesture, don't point to the reporter with a raised hand).


We must get back to taking care of this situation. Thanks for being here. We plan another press conference (tomorrow, in two hours, next week--make a promise you can keep).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

When They Get It Wrong Again

When I was in Abilene, Texas last week speaking to newsmakers and public relations professionals, a common complaint was that reporters in the market were getting their facts wrong again and again. If I'd just heard this from one person, I might've thought she was having trouble communicating to the reporters. But I heard it from three different people. And they couldn't single out one station.

First, that scares me about what is going on in our journalism schools. If you're a professor, please make sure you're making a proper emphasis on credibility, accuracy and truth. If you're a student or recent graduate, know that the only good reputation you can earn is one based on reporting the facts.

Second, if this happens to you, take the steps I recommended in Abilene:

1. At every event, hand out a tip sheet or tip card... even if you've given it to the same reporter before. Just because she got it right last time doesn't mean she'll remember this time.

2. Hold an academy. One Fire Department's Public Information Officer got so fed up with the way the media reported incidents that he created a "school" in which reporters wear turnout gear, hold hoses and climb on ladders and engines. He strongly urges news directors in his market to let only those who have graduated cover his department.

3. Call the news director. Explain the steps you've taken to correct the situation with the reporter and give examples of mistakes that have aired. Ask the news director how you can help make sure the mistakes don't happen again.

4. Reward good behavior. If the reporter takes care and starts filing great stories, send a nice message on your letterhead. The reporter will hang this in her cubicle and file it with HR.

If none of these steps work, ask the news director to assign a different reporter to your events.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Quotes About News

"If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read 'President Can't Swim.'"

Lyndon Johnson

"News is a contact sport."

Dan Rather