Responding to media requests in today’s fast paced world: tips and tricks for small businesses

Today’s fast paced world of social media and online news media has changed the face of journalism.

With stories being posted on social media pages and websites at lightning fast speeds, breaking news becomes old news almost as fast as the story is published.

This can be stressful for small business owners and volunteer groups who cannot afford the cost of hiring a public relations expert, particularly if you know the reporter on the other end is going to be asking difficult questions. Other times the reporter may not be asking difficult questions but is trying to get the story published first. (With the ability to post stories to the Internet quickly many media publications are focused on being the first to publish a story).

With all of that in mind, take a deep breath, and read these tips for managing requests for comments and interviews from the media:

Respond as soon as reasonably possible. Responding quickly allows you an opportunity to gather information about what the reporter is looking for. Depending on the type of story you may even be able to set up an interview for later in the day or on a subsequent day,  giving you time to prepare for any possible questions the reporter may ask. While it’s highly unlikely a reporter will just hand over their list of questions, you can ask a reporter what information they’re looking for from you, then plan to gather the information and call the reporter back.

Have a communications plan in place. A communications plan is a living document and should be comprised of 3 areas: 1. Internal Communications. 2. Public Communications. 3. Media Communications. While your business may not be able to afford to hire a communications professional, it may be well worth the money to hire a professional communications consultant who can help you set up the framework for a living communications document.

Decide who responds to the media.Some businesses are comfortable with multiple employees speaking with the media, while others prefer to have a select group of employees (or in some cases only one) person who speaks to the media.

There are pros and cons to both methods. Allowing a number of employees to respond to requests for media interviews means you’re less likely to miss out on being included in a story. On the other hand, having too many employees who are able to speak with the media can lead to trouble particularly if it’s a controversial issue or one the employee isn’t well-versed in.

Ask what the reporter’s deadline is.Deadline is journalism speak for when a story is due. With few exceptions reporters have no ability to move the deadline which is set by editors (and in the case of printed publications, by the printing schedule). If you want to be included in the story you’ll have to respond to the reporter prior to their deadline.

 It’s free advertising for your business.Many online publications contain URL links to websites of businesses included in the stories they publish. While you cannot control what is written in the story, chances are you’ll gain a bit of website traffic (which will hopefully lead to new customers).

Follow up if you weren’t able to meet the reporter’s deadline. Sometimes it happens. You’ve been in a meeting all morning and you come back to the office to find several messages from a reporter. Even if the story has already been published it’s worth connecting with the reporter. In some cases it may be possible for the reporter to update the story to include your comments. If too much time has passed you can ask the reporter if they’re planning to write any follow-up stories. If neither case is possible, you can use the connection to create a relationship with the reporter.

Does your small business have a communications plan in place? Melissa Jameson Writing & Communications is currently creating in-person and on-line workshops geared towards helping small businesses, not for profits, and entrepreneurs create comprehensive communications plans.  If you are interested in learning more please send an email to mnjameson [at] outlook.com.

Melissa Jameson is a freelance writer and professional communications consultant in Revelstoke BC. She has a Masters Degree in Professional Communication with a specialization in intercultural and international communications.  

Choosing a social media platform for your business

The importance of using social media platforms as a marketing strategy is well known. But are you using the right social media platform for your business?

There can be a temptation to engage on every social media platform out there. Let’s face it, there are a lot! Facebook. Instagram. Snap chat. Twitter. The list goes on, with new platforms popping up on a regular basis. Trying to engage and upkeep multiple platforms can become frustrating, especially if you aren’t getting results.

Here are my top 3 tips for choosing a social media platform for your business:

  1. Where are your customers most engaged? If you’re finding a high level of engagement on one social media platform you’ll want to focus most of your efforts there. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use other platforms. You may just want to focus most of your energy on the platform with the highest level of engagement. It’s also a good idea to figure out which social media platforms your target audience uses, as this can be a clue as to where you may want to start.
  1. How much time are you willing to commit?Be honest with yourself and the time you can commit. Make a schedule and stick with it. If you plan to post updates once a week, make sure you’re consistent. Some social media platforms allow you to schedule posts. So you can spend a couple of hours writing posts and schedule them to appear on your page on a specified date.
  1. Evaluate results on an ongoing basis. Most social media platforms have built in analytics. This is a fancy word for statistics about how people are engaging with your page or profile. It’s a good idea to look at and become familiar with these. Be willing to change and adapt your social media strategy based on results.

Using social media platforms to market your business shouldn’t be difficult or time consuming. In fact, if you’re using these tips it should be fun, easy, and (hopefully) lead to consistent customer engagement.

 

Editorial vs. Advertising

I’m constantly being asked to explain the difference between editorial (stories in newspapers, magazines, online, etc) and advertising.

I’ve made a 5 minute video explaining the difference. If you don’t have time to watch here’s the quick and dirty:

Advertising = You pay for the ad. You’ll also get a chance to review the ad before its published.

Editorial = It’s free! In most cases it means you’re doing something interesting in the community! (OK, some exceptions but we’ll talk about that in another video). The con is that you don’t have control over what’s written and will not be able to review the article prior to publication.