How to Get the Attention of the Media “Marilynn Mobley”

Growing a Business

1. The importance of building relationships with reporters
2. Tips for delivering your message face-to-face
3. How passive PR can generate active interest
4. Three ways to battle buzzwords

1. The importance of building relationships

If you want to get frequent, meaningful media coverage, learn to
build great relationships with reporters. Remember, they are customers who “buy” from you, not unlike clients who actually send you checks. They don’t want to hear from you just when you want to sell them on a story idea.

Always consider how you can be helpful to a reporter, rather than
the other way around. Here are some proven techniques for ensuring you make the “must call” list on a reporter’s rolodex:

  • Introduce yourself before you need them. Once you’ve identified reporters you want to establish a relationship with, call and ask for time to chat. Tell them you want to learn more about their beats and how they like to work. DO NOT pitch a story idea the first time you talk; instead focus only on how you can be helpful.
  • Contact them the way they want to be contacted. Each reporter has his or her own personal preferences for receiving information. Today, most prefer e-mail pitches but some want to talk by phone or receive faxes. Always ask how a reporter prefers to receive information and then deliver it the way they want it, regardless of what you prefer.
  • Provide relevant information. Most reporters cover specific topics, called “beats” and need ongoing information and data about their topics. When you see interesting, relevant information you think the reporter would appreciate, send it with a short, “Thought this might be useful to you” type of note. Often, you’ll see such information in association newsletters and trade journals you read.
  • Be sensitive about deadlines. Give reporters as much notice as possible about upcoming events. Don’t abuse the relationship by calling at the last minute and pleading for coverage. Always be respectful of reporters’ time and demands.

2. Tips for delivering your message face-to-face

When doing an interview in person with a reporter, here are some tips to keep in mind that will help you come across as credible, sincere and knowledgeable:

  • Use direct eye contact. Look down only if you need to review notes. Try not to be the first to break eye contact.
  • Lean forward a little when seated to convey interest in the interviewer.
  • Be slightly animated, using hand gestures that occur naturally. Never lock your hands in your lap. It makes you look intimidated.
  • Keep your energy level high. It shows you’re passionate about your subject and you want others to feel passionate too.
  • Temper your body language to reflect the nature of the topic being discussed.
  • Use your sense of humor. Most reporters have a real appreciation for a keen wit.
  • Smile. You’ll exude confidence and approachability.

3. How passive PR can generate active interest

Sometimes, we get so focused on proactive PR, like media releases, we forget there are many ways to promote ourselves — and what we do — that cost literally nothing and yet can be very effective.

Are you promoting yourself every time you get a chance? Use this checklist to see if you’re missing an opportunity:

  • E-mail address: A clever address can be very effective, especially if there’s an obvious connection to your business. Example: I use headnut@theacorngroup.com. It’s catchy and, quite frankly, less likely to cause mistyped addresses, since people rarely spell my name correctly (it has two n’s: Marilynn). Be careful not to be too creative or you’ll risk having to constantly explain yourself. Avoid using abbreviations that aren’t obvious. For instance, mpower, 4ever, bizwiz, or other names that can be easily misunderstood or misread. (Incidentally, in the past year, four magazines have featured me because I use a clever title and e-mail address, so I know it works!)
  • E-mail signature: It should not only have your name, address and contact numbers, but a description of your services, preferably in one sentence. Don’t worry about it becoming monotonous to people you e-mail regularly; instead, think of every e-mail as a potential bulletin board for your services.
  • Fax cover: It’s amazing how many people miss the chance to provide a promotional message on their fax covers. It’s another calling card, so use it that way. Don’t use standard covers provided by your word processor. Customize your cover in every way possible.
  • Business card: It’s more than a way to convey your name and number: it’s also an opportunity to provide a promotional message about what you do and your affiliation with professional associations. For instance, if you’re a member of National Speakers Association and you don’t use the official NSA logo on your card, you’re missing a chance to brand yourself as a speaking pro.
  • Voicemail: Record a new greeting at least weekly, so people know right away what your availability status is. Always identify your company name in your greeting, and let callers know how to reach you by e-mail. Also suggest they visit your web site. The greeting doesn’t have to be long to be informational. The key is to ensure callers hang up feeling confident that they made a good choice by calling you.
  • Proposals and handouts: Always make sure that paper you distribute to clients and potential clients carries a copyright, along with full contact information. Don’t assume people will remember your name six months from now; however, they’ll often be able to pull a copy of your handout or proposal from a file. Make it as easy as possible to find you.

Think about all the ways you communicate with the “outside world” and, making the assumption someone is hearing from you for the first time, ask yourself if there’s something you can do to make your first impression a lasting one. Above all, be consistent in whatever you do. Always use the same descriptor, logo, title, etc., regardless of the vehicle you’re using to communicate it. Do this often enough and people (including reporters) will begin to sit up and take notice.

4. Three ways to battle buzzwords

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of using buzzwords when talking about certain subjects or industries. But did you know that using buzzwords when sending a reporter an e-mail pitch can prevent your pitch from reaching its intended audience?

Some savvy reporters are now using buzzword filters to automatically screen e-mails (especially electronic media releases) as a way of letting it be known they want us to just say what we mean in plain English.

Several months ago, editors at several nationally known magazines commissioned a study to determine how out of hand certain buzzwords had gotten. For one week, researchers read every single press release sent over Businesswire and PR Newswire and looked for only two words: solutions and provider. The word “solutions” appeared once every eight minutes, while “provider” appeared once every two minutes. These similarities made it difficult for the companies sending the releases to differentiate themselves (after all, more than half of them described themselves as “solutions providers.”)

As a result of the study, reporters developed e-mail filters to look for certain buzzwords they find especially irritating. If a note comes in that includes those buzzwords, it is automatically erased without being read. If you’d like to see a list of “most hated buzzwords,” visit www.buzzkiller.net.

So, how do you avoid buzzwords? Try this:

  • Use everyday language: Use the same words you’d use to explain your product, service, or situation to someone who knows little or nothing about the subject.
  • Be specific in your explanations: Avoid using “cute” phrases that may be commonplace in the office, but your 12-year-old wouldn’t have a clue what you’re saying. For instance, I know people in one company who are fond of saying, “open the kimono” when what they mean is “be straightforward, even vulnerable.”
  • Listen to yourself. Consider recording, then transcribing, interviews, speeches, meetings, even conversations with colleagues. Read what you said. Often, we don’t even realize we’re using buzzwords, incomplete thoughts, and even incorrect grammar until we see it in black and white.

The absolute best way to battle buzzwords is to force yourself to get into the habit of saying and writing your thoughts in the simplest, most straightforward way possible. If we can get into the habit of using buzzwords, we have the power to get into the habit of NOT using them!

Marilynn Mobley, the Head Nut at Acorn Consulting Group, Inc., has 25+ years experience in public relations. She is a speaker and consultant who teaches corporate executives, entrepreneurs and individuals how to work effectively with the media.

Her seminar, “I Heard You Twice the First Time: How to Get Your Message Across to the Media the First Time, Every Time,” provides participants with the training they need to be great interviewees. Her speech and seminar,” From Media Zero to Media Hero: How to Get Good at Getting PR,” has gotten rave reviews around the country.

To learn more about her services, visit her web site at www.theacorngroup.com call 770-578-6002, or e-mail her at headnut@theacorngroup.com.

Want to get paid for knowing the right people? Marilynn pays up to 20% commission to those who refer her for a speech or seminar. Ask her how this works!

Reprint rights: If you would like to reprint any of these tips in your own e-zine or publication, you may do so absolutely free. Just attach the following credit line: Reprinted (or excerpted) from PR Tips and Techniques, a free monthly e-zine by Marilynn Mobley, Acorn Consulting Group, www.theacorngroup.com, 770-578-6002. I’d also appreciate receiving a copy of your publication.

Marilynn Mobley
headnut@theacorngroup.com
770-578-6002 direct line
770-977-5523 fax
www.theacorngroup.com

Acorn Consulting Group, Inc.
2046 Renford Pointe
Marietta GA 30062

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