Mistakes Businesses Make with the Media, Part 2

Unfortunately, organizations that are new to dealing with traditional media can make more than a few mistakes.

As public relations professionals, we have seen a variety of media blunders made by business and civic groups of all sizes. Here are some more mistakes businesses make with the media:

Sending the wrong spokesperson. A new employee is not often the best media representative, because he or she has not had adequate time to be familiarized with the organization. But in situations where it makes sense to send out a newbie – for example, the person has come from a business in the same field or has dealt with a similar circumstance elsewhere – at least make sure all talking points have been agreed on and approved ahead of time before sending them to speak with the media. This is especially important in crisis communications scenarios, because every word counts in a crisis.

Speaking in platitudes. The media doesn’t like meaningless statements about how great your business is, because they don’t make a story; they just make an advertisement. When a politician says, “I believe in making life better for all Americans,” is that newsworthy? Of course not; all politicians claim to believe that.

Likewise, sending a reporter a generic press release that could be about any business anywhere, and asking him to turn it into a story for you, will not work. When you approach the media, there should always be a news angle. Your opening, expansion or new addition is the news; the fluffy details are not. It takes a public relations expert to minimize the fluff artfully, while still weaving in positive messaging to evoke the media’s interest.

Failing to work in your messages. This is the natural consequence of being unprepared. Even a brief, 15-minute interview is enough time to work in your key messages. Having them established ahead of time is important, so you can stay on message and make sure you don’t talk on any one topic too long. As the interview wraps up, these messages can be reiterated as you briefly weave them into the conversation one more time.

Conversation? Yes, that’s really all it is! Failing to relax is another crucial mistake businesses make in dealing with the media. Staying on message with a reporter is important, but so is communicating warmth, friendliness and confidence. By being relaxed and prepared, you’ll already be ahead of the game.