When reporters write a story, they start at the top of their computer file, at the top of the document, and at the top of their Rolodex. They keep adding comments from sources until the story is complete within the assigned space (number of words or minutes). Be ready when the media call you. You can enhance the value of your dialogue with the media in several ways.
Attitude rule.Everyone who works in the media is in a hurry, on deadline, and wants it yesterday. It's an unreasonable business, but as long as you know, understand, and respect it, you can work with any reporter on any deadline. Let the reporters know that you understand their rules by responding quickly. This attitude works wonders.
One-hour rule.Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do to enhance your relationship with the media is to be available when they call. Instruct your staff to interrupt you, even if you are with a client! Always acknowledge a call personally. Ask the reporter what the call is about, agree to respond after your meeting, and call back within one hour. If you call back late, the story may be already finished. Or if you are at the end of a story, your comments may be cut due to a lack of space.
Truth rule.If you do not know the answer, do not fake it. Send them to a willing colleague. Your Rolodex is more powerful than reporters' Rolodexes, and they need your help.
Spin rule.Even if you are available when the media call, ask what the call is about and tell them you will call back in 10 minutes. This gives you time to think about what you want to say. Develop five "must-air" points that support your business objectives and respond to what the reporter wants to ask you. If you are among the first sources they call, you may have the opportunity to redirect the story with your own spin. You could say to the reporter, "That's a good question, but the real story is..."
Resource rule.Assist reporters in any way possible. Check your files for materials that may help a reporter develop background for a story. Get permission to fax or e-mail the information to the reporter after discussing its relevancy. You increase the likelihood of being quoted accurately when you consolidate your verbal communication in writing and fax it to a reporter. Send any additional information that supports your story. You will earn a star next to your name on the reporter's Rolodex. Expect a call for a future story. You have distinguished yourself.
Photo opportunity rule.Photos increase the readership of any article by 35% to 40%. Offer to courier a photo to a print media outlet. For local television, offer to drive to the studio to take a stand-up shot so that they can get your "talking head" into the program with very little effort on their part. Think photos. They will significantly increase your visibility and name recognition.