In The News But Out Of Your Comfort Zone? Follow These Golden Rules:
People working at companies in the B2B sector are usually comfortable engaging with the media that serves their particular industry. Hardly surprising, given that trade and industry reporters have a deep understanding of their sector, its issues, challenges and opportunities. This understanding is based not only on extensive knowledge, but built on long term relationships with companies, teams, their agencies and representatives.
Trade media titles are often produced by smaller but more stable editorial teams than their mainstream counterparts. Some industry media channels have even been established by the industries they represent.
From a media relations point of view, these qualities foster positive interactions and as editorial deadlines tend to be longer, opportunities for interviews or engagement usually take place in a planned, “no surprises” way.
However, companies and spokespeople used to this more benevolent, symbiotic relationship can come unstuck when the spotlight of the fast-paced, ratings-driven national media is turned on them.
Here are some golden rules to bear in mind when engaging with reporters, producers and editors operating within, and driven by, the daily news agenda…
- You can’t assume any depth of knowledge about you, your company or the industry you represent, so be prepared to provide brief, top-line explanations rather than detail-heavy context.
- Avoid jargon, acronyms or overly complex, technical language.
- Expect things to move very fast. Be prepared to streamline any sign off or approval processes, and be available and prepared for an interview at short notice.
- Anticipate and ask for questions in advance by all means, but don’t expect to necessarily get them. Often a rather vague, general line of questioning is all that can be expected.
- If you haven’t proactively engaged on an issue, look at the national news agenda for clues to the context – what are the current, topical issues affecting your sector? Why is this of interest to the general public or a wider business audience?
- Make sure your spokesperson is prepared to handle potentially sensitive issues and is confident enough to respond calmly but firmly to aggressive or combative questioning.
- Remember that the media is not there to represent you, your products or your services – and that the final word on any editorial decision always rests with the editor or producer.
By Sue Milne-Bennett, B2B Deputy Managing Director