Monday, August 27, 2007

Your press release hooked a reporter - what's next?

You can see with this post, that we start to see how certain basics in radio are recurring in the "real world" of handling reporters (who deal in controversy and work to make their articles exciting/entertaining to their readers) and others around you.

The Reporter Called!
Now What?

Alyice Edrich, Guest Author

You've sent the press releases and after what seems like an eternity of waiting, you finally get the call! The call that says, "Hey, we loved the press release and think there is a story to be written!"

What Do You Do Now?

Don't panic. Take a deep breath, say a silent prayer of thanks, and ask the reporter how you can help him or her.

Don't forget to jot down the name of the reporter. If you were in so much shock, that you didn't get the name, simply say, "I'm sorry, I didn't get your name." The reporter will repeat his or her name.

Then Say, "How May I Help You?"

The reporter will mention your press release and an angle that he or she wants to use to write a story about you or your business. If you disagree with the angle, don't be afraid to say so and definitely do not be afraid to decline the interview. However, if the angle is complimentary to your business, you most definitely want to take the reporter up on the offer! (It is very important to know why the reporter called and how he or she is going to use your quotes in relation to the article being written.)

Answer each question after you have given a moment to collect your thoughts. Do not ramble on and on. Get directly to the point, as reporters are busy people with deadlines to keep. Keeping on topic shows the reporter that you are appreciative of the call and understand his or her time is valuable.

If you encounter dead silence after you have finished your statement, do not continue to ramble on. Wait for the reporter to ask another question.

Always Stay on the Positive Side.

Never let a reporter goat you into speaking negative of anyone, whether it be your business, your clients, your customers, your competition, or life in general.

Be friendly, personable, and confident.

Don't be afraid to laugh during the interview should the occasion call for it.

Have Sources Readily Available.

As soon as you send out a press release, think of customers, clients, or others that are targeted towards the angle you took in your press release. Call them up and ask if you could use them as a source or reference should an interviewer request this information.

Keep a handy list next to your phone, that includes:

  • The Name of your source
  • Source's Busines
  • Phone Number
  • Website Address
  • E-mail Address
  • Statistics

If your press release makes note of statistics, research material, or other data, have that information readily available, so that you can refer to it during the interview. As the questions pop up, should the occasion call, do not be afraid to say, "I happen to have an article or back up material on this very subject. Would you like me to e-mail or fax it to you?"

Do You Know Facts Off the Top of Your Head?

Cite them during the interview, when appropriate. Don't know any facts off the top of your head? Keep a note card next to the phone, with possible facts that the reporter may be able to use during an interview, based on the press release you sent out.

Do You Have an Anecdote to Share?

Have you noticed how articles share stories to make a point? Do you have a compelling anecdote that will keep the reporter intrigued enough to use?

Never Say Anything That You Want to be "Off-the-Record!"

If you don't want the reporter to make use of your quote, don't say anything. If a reporter requests that you answer something "off the record," decline. Assume that anything you say will be used in that article.

If you do not have an answer to a question asked, don't lie and don't make up an answer. Definitely do not use hypothetical statements. Simply state, "I'm sorry. I honestly do not have an answer for that." Or "You know, I don't know. But I can find out and get back to you later today." Or "I don't have the answer to that, but it brings up a good point about (then use this opportunity to bring up a point you did want to make).

If you find that you answered a question and you made absolutely no sense, or it came out sounding wrong. Simply say, "I'm sorry, I didn't answer that very well. Let me see if I can give you a more clear answer."

If the Reporter Requests Follow-up

Information can be e-mailed, faxed, or snail-mailed to his or her office. Ask the reporter when his or her deadline is. Then make it a top priority to get that information to him or her the same day you get off the phone and no later than a two days before the deadline. Following up in a timely manner will make it easier for you to get another interview when the time arises, as the reporter will find you a valuable resource!

Before You Hang Up

Thank the reporter for his or her time, ask when the article may appear in print, ask for the correct spelling of his or her name, and get his or her contact information. Finally, let the reporter know that he or she can call back regarding clarification, or should another story idea come up where you could be useful.

What If You Were Out When the Reporter Called?

Gather your thoughts, and any information you may be able to use for the interview, then call the reporter back, ASAP! More often than not, the reporter will request a phone interview. It's fast, painless, and allows them to meet their other deadlines with ease.

If you can get away with having the reporter e-mail you a set of questions, that is your best bet. After all, you can reword and regroup your thoughts to sound as professional as possible. Then after proofing your answers, you can send them off to the reporter. There is also less of a chance of getting misquoted.

What If the Reporter Called at a Bad Time?

Simply state, "This is a bad time, can I call you back at such and such a time?" Then get the reporter's contact information and make sure that you call back, on time.

Larry's NOTE: My experience has been that most reporters are on a very tight deadline, therefore I promote the fact that I am available on short notice. If it's not a good time, I will usually say, "I, too, am on a deadline, however I can give you 15 minutes right now and can call you back in (a specific time period) for a follow-up. Will that work for you?" That usually works. Since 1987, I have only missed one interview because I was unavailable to meet the reporter's deadline.

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