Supplement Perspectives

Working with Journalists is Your Gateway to Mastering the Media

Pete Croatto explains how working with journalists is essential to media success.

When I'm not overseeing this fine blog, I write for a wide array of outlets. The frustration, however, is the same.

Part of this is my fault. Writing and reporting requires concentraton on my part, which is always taxed. If I had it my way, I'd work in monastic silence, with my wife coming in periodically to clothe, bathe, and feed me. I would be a hard life, but man, would my copy shine.

Sometimes, the frustration is the fault of others. Like when a source agrees to be interviewed for a story, but doesn't call at the appointed time. Or when a company exec calls a week after deadline to see if their company can still be included in the feature. Or when a response to a set of emailed questions reads like something from a reluctant witness.

Does that sound like you? If it does, you're not mastering the media.

The last few weeks we've talked about the media in pretty sophisticated terms: TV coverage and targeted pitches and all that stuff. What's lost in these sound discussions is that mastering the media starts with common courtesy in dealing with editors, journalists, bloggers. Getting to that point, however, is very easy.

1.) Respond to emails and phone calls. Let's say a trade magazine reporter wants to write about enzymes and contacts you. You're too busy, so you ignore the email. Two consequences arise from that. First, you avoid a terrific form of publicity. (Ads aren't the only game in town. A forum for a compay rep who is smart and savvy and knows the industry is even better, because you're not soliciting.) Second, you may drop off that reporter's radar. Reporters and editors love two things: pens that work and sources who get back to them in a timely fashion. A happy reporter is more inclined to read your press releases and consider your story ideas.

If you would rather focus on the business, that's OK. Hire a PR rep, preferably one who knows the industry, to handle media requests both good and bad.

2.) If you agree to participate in a story, do so. This is my biggest pet peeve, as illustrated in a one-act play.

Company employee: "Sure, Pete, we'd love to participate. I'll get answers over to you in two days!"

Me [two days later]: "Hey, do you have answers to those questions."

Company employee: [Silence]

Me: "My story is due in two days, and I really need answers."

Company employee: [Silence]

Me: [Drops head onto desk, sobs silently, as his deadline approaches with an insufficient number of sources. Considers career in air conditoning repair.]

END SCENE

Look, things pop up. That's OK, but let the writer know so he or she can make plans to find another source. A quick phone call goes a long way in keeping your credibility in check. So keep your word. And that works both ways.

3.) Give too much information. We don't want the proprietary formulas, but remember: this is going to appear in an article. We need to fill space or dead air, so feel free to elaborate and simplify and spell out. "Yes" and "no" answers should be avoided like a $2 buffet. And if you're not comfortable with the line of questioning, politely decline.

4.) If you have questions, ask us. Before you schedule that sit-down or phone interview, make sure you know the situation. Do I have to pay to participate in editorial? What questions would you like to ask? When do you need answers by? That way no one's time is wasted.

 

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