Friday, February 12, 2010

10 Mistakes People Make With the News Media

1. Saying “No comment.” This annoys reporters and makes you look guilty.

2. Getting angry at a reporter. The reporter would rather be covering the water-skiing squirrel, believe me. But this was the assignment, and she’s just doing her job.

3. Inserting verbal fillers. Editors cannot take your “uh’s” and “um’s” out in editing.

4. Wearing the wrong colors for TV. Despite HD cameras, black and white and small patterns can still look bad and be distracting. Wear solid colors. Blues are best.

5. Asking to see the story ahead of time. This offends journalists. You are insinuating they will not do a good job of reporting accurately and fairly.

6. Not preparing for a crisis. It’s a matter of when, not if, an act of violence or Mother Nature or an innocent mistake will adversely affect your organization. Media crisis training is an insurance policy. Invest now before it’s too late.

7. Not having a media policy. Make sure your employees know who the company spokesperson is and how to refer calls to him or her.

8. Not calling back immediately. Journalists are on deadlines, and if you don’t call back within a few minutes, they will start looking for another source, and you will have missed the opportunity.

9. Speaking too long. Soundbites are short. Don't blather.

10. Lying. Dishonesty will come back to haunt you. Media organizations keep tapes, digital files and notes for a long, long time. They will resurrect your lie and make a news story out of it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are You Repeating Annoying Phrases?

In person or on TV/radio, you may be using crutch words or phrases that drive people crazy, mostly because you're repeating them so often. For instance, I have one friend who says "basically" after every second or third word. I have another friend who ends almost every sentence with "or something."

Annoying your friends is one thing. But if you are a spokesperson or high-profile newsmaker, you may be hurting your image and diluting your message if you do this. One way to discover if you have this problem is to record an ordinary conversation and see if you are repeating any words or phrases unncessarily. Then listen or watch your media interviews and observe if you're repeating yourself.

Yesterday on "Good Morning America," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was talking about the Toyota recalls. He kept repeating the phrases "Hold their feet to the fire" and "take a back seat to nobody." I like the "back seat" phrasing when talking about cars, but I don't think it was intentional, and it got old after he said it twice. The phrases you want to repeat are your key messages, not meaningless cliches.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Marketing Ideas

Since I've looked at an estimated 20,000 press kits and press releases in my career and heard at least 2,000 pitches, my friends with small businesses often ask me for low-cost marketing or PR ideas. Here are a few strategies that might boost your bottom line in these trying times:

1. Include a "Press" or "Media" tab on your website. This is one of the first things reporters look for when they're researching whether to cover you. On this portion of your website, you can include press releases, a fact sheet, links to previous coverage, bios of key players and even photos.

2. Call or write your database. And by write, I mean send mail. We all get so many emails that it's too easy to delete ones that look impersonal. Send a postcard or a letter updating your list on services, accomplishments or products.

3. If you're reading this, you're probably already blogging, tweeting, facebooking or linking. If not, get started.

4. Attend the kind of meetings where you can tell people about your business. For women, there are ABWA and NAWBO chapters nationwide. Most communities have Optimist, Lion's, Rotary and lead-exchange meetings. Consider joining your Chamber of Commerce, too.

5. Write letters to the editor, articles and books. Get your name out there.

These are ways that may drum up business, but can also get the media's attention. I'd love to hear your tips, too! Let's help each other.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Toyota Crisis

I'd give Toyota a C- on the recall crisis. Finally, President and COO Jim Lentz provided comments this week, but looked less than transparent when ABC's Brian Ross met him with camera rolling. Hey, executives, how about trying this line: "We don't want anyone to get hurt driving our vehicles. So we are working around the clock to get this fixed. We are trying alternatives to see which can be implemented the quickest to get Toyota owners back on the road."

When a reporter persists, say: "I'd love to answer any questions you have. As to your question why we didn't act sooner, we acted immediately, but had conflicting information about what was causing the problem, so our research teams have been working to find answers for different combinations of issues."

Now, I don't know if that is the truth. For all I know, Toyota executives were off at wild parties not even knowing that people were dying driving their cars. When they evade questions and take too long to talk to the press, we all assume the worst.