To many business owners and top executives, the media remains an exotic creature, more to be feared than admired. And, in the main, they’re right to be wary.
Many media types, especially the baby boomers who still rule newsrooms, tend reflexively to be anti-business—an outgrowth perhaps of a saying pounded into them in journalism school. Their mission, they were told, is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”
One guess which category CEOs and business usually fall in.
But, that doesn’t mean it always has to be this way. That was the subject of a recent talk I gave to the Dallas chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, part of a day-long seminar series called “Survive & Thrive” at the Westin Galleria Hotel.
The fact is, there are plenty of opportunities these days to get positive media coverage for your company. There’s more information out there than ever before, and newspapers and magazines, radio and TV stations, and blogs and Web sites have a continual need for fresh content to “feed the beast.”
Happily for you, journalists in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are less likely to view business as an enemy of the people. And a dirty little secret, I told the EO members, is how much of the “news” you see and hear actually was generated by PR people. Even I was surprised to learn just how much, and I’ve toiled in the journalism vineyards for years.
A while ago, the Columbia Journalism Review dissected a single edition of The Wall Street Journal to determine where all the stories had come from. Amazingly, they found, no fewer than 111 stories inside the paper that day had been taken from press releases. And most of those stories—70 percent—had been lifted verbatim from the release or slightly paraphrased, without any new information added by reporters at all.
We see this phenomenon every day at D CEO magazine. We’ll receive a pitch, usually by e-mail, from a PR firm bragging about some fantastic thing one of its clients has done. And pretty soon—mirabile dictu!— stories about that person or his company begin showing up in the daily and weekly business media. Of course the multiple placements are no coincidence, though the average reader might think they are—if he or she notices the duplications at all.
The point is, you can get a piece of this action for your company—and you might as well, since many others are. So how do you go about it? Here are a few suggestions:
First and foremost, get to know the reporters who focus on your business—before you “need” or approach them for publicity. Establish a personal relationship by calling or e-mailing them. Be friendly and authoritative when you do—but brief, as reporters are busy especially lately, given all the layoffs in our industry.
Once the door has been opened, work to prove that you’re a trusted source of information about your industry—or your competitors. Get acquainted with the type of news the reporter needs and, if it involves your company at some point, be sure to deliver on your promises. If you agree to provide additional facts or to present your CFO for an interview at a certain time, for example, make sure it happens. Be honest and upfront in all your dealings, and—this is all-important—respect the reporter’s deadlines.
If you do all that successfully, you may be surprised to find the media isn’t such a fearsome creature after all.