That’s probably true if you are a celebrity. But if you are a small business, consultant or professional, media can be either a blessing for your business getting you tons of exposure and new customers… or a terrible, bad Yelp-review spawning curse that lives forever on YouTube.
I’ve had more than one client call me after getting surprised with a “consumer reports” type news piece that harmed their online reputation.
I learned through “trial by fire” to deal with the press in 2012 when I defended multiple lawsuits against the Libertarian Party’s Presidential candidate. During that time, I learned how to do press releases and was interviewed by reporters. Now, I’m a regular on a San Diego political radio show called The Andrea Kaye Show on AM 1170.
Politics and press go together like peanut butter and jelly. Business is also a popular topic for the press.
If you get an opportunity to speak with the press, you should grab it. (But never speak to the press about lawsuits or criminal charges involving you!)
Here is a strategy to make talking to reporters effective PR for your business or career.
Step 1: Frame the Story
There’s a saying that you should take to heart. “If you are explaining, you’re losing.” In other words, if you get pounced on by a reporter who is placing you on the defensive, the story is not going well for you.
What you want is to shape the story. Reporters need something interesting that will engage their readers on a gut (i.e. emotional) level. This is called a “news hook.”
Make it easy for the reporter to share your words and see your point of view. The easiest way to do that is to create a “bad guy” who is not you. This doesn’t need to be another person or business.
Here are some appealing “bad guys”:
- The government (local, state, federal)
- Foreign competition
- Big business
Step 2: Highlight the things you are trying to do to help people but are prevented from doing because the “bad guy” is in the way.
Step 3: State that you are willing to dialogue or compromise with the “bad guy” because you are a nice, reasonable person. This will give you credibility. Even though you have pointed to someone or something else as the villain in your story, you won’t be a hero if you aren’t nice.
Step 4: State the public benefits of your position.
You need a message for why your position is the just position — and not just for you but for the reader, too. For example:
- “I just want to save the people of XYZ town as much money as possible on their lawn care but the new tax on landscapers is preventing me from doing that.”
- “My goal is to offer everyone the opportunity to have affordable lawn care but the City legislature won’t let me because of this new tax.”
- “This tax will kill the beautiful landscaping that has been the hallmark of our city. It just makes me sad our children won’t be able to benefit from this tradition.”
Repetition is your friend. If you hit the same message 7 or 8 times in a 10-minute interview, the reporter cannot ignore it.
Bonus Advice: remember that nothing is “off the record.”
Even when the interview is friendly, presenting a story in this way makes it much more likely that you will be quoted extensively and presented favorably.