Now that you know what to do in order to solicit a positive response—here’s what to avoid:
1. Not Taking “No” for an Answer
Persistence is an admirable trait, but there comes a point when you must accept defeat. Most people won’t build relationships with insistent callers who phone 500 times after they’re told “No.” When someone says “No,” accept it. Walk away before you destroy a potentially valuable connection.
2. Long Press Releases
One killer page is all you need. If the media wants more, they’ll ask for it. Come up with a great headline, state the major points in a strong first paragraph, and bullet everything you want to stress. Include secondary information in a background or follow-up release.
3. Lying, Misrepresentation, and Hype
Don’t be dishonest or unreasonable. The truth will always emerge, and when stories aren’t based on facts, the media usually ends up holding the bag. Most people, especially those in the media, won’t forget who got them burned and will not give you the chance to do it again. Media pros know a good story when they see one and they can cut through the hype.
4. Pitches That Don’t Fit
Know exactly what the specific contact wants. Don’t approach reporters or producers with stories that fall outside their areas of interest. Pitching a story to the wrong outlet shows that you haven’t done your research. It wastes everyone’s time.
5. Small Talk
Get right to the point—be clear and brief. Don’t confuse chitchat with courtesy. Assume that the people you contact are busy and don’t have time for small talk. Needless chatting borders on rudeness, it holds people hostage and keeps them from attending to business. It’s thinly veiled manipulation that rarely works.
6. Links That Don’t Work
Little is more frustrating than to click on a link that doesn’t work. When people go to your site or blog, they don’t have time to waste on dead links. If they can’t easily access the information they want, they will probably exit your site and move on to something else.
Media kits that weigh as much as your cocker spaniel are a turnoff. Less is more. When in doubt, leave it out. Most recipients resent bulging kits, consider them wasteful, and won’t read them. The last thing they want is more stuff. If you must send tomes, bound them securely because it’s maddening to watch papers falling out and scattering in every direction when an envelope is opened.
8. Cold Calls
Unsolicited phone calls are intrusions—verbal spam. They interrupt busy people while they’re working. E-mail first to warn them that you plan on calling. Similarly, don’t send unrequested attachments—they won’t be opened—and unsolicited videotapes won’t be watched. Unless you receive express permission, never call the media at home!
Avoid offering free tickets to events and other bribes. Many media outlets prohibit gifts altogether, some bar presents over a fixed dollar amount (often $25) and others require gifts to be shared or donated to charity. Generally, the media wants good stories, not free T-shirts or coffee mugs.
Food is often welcome. Many who man late-night newsrooms and stations love receiving free food and will publicly express their appreciation. Clever packaging, such as your picture on a pizza box, can produce positive responses. While free food may build goodwill, it won’t guarantee you publicity.
Nobody likes name-droppers. Name-dropping often indicates that a story is weak. In most cases, if connections to celebrated names are tenuous at best, they seldom change the story’s value. While name-dropping may work with friends, it will hurt you with media professionals.
11. Lack of Appeal
Your discovery of a foolproof method of pickling pimentos may be the biggest thing in your life, but it’s probably of little or no interest to the rest of the world. If you want your story covered by the media, it must have audience appeal.
12. Unnecessary Confirmation Calls
Unrequested calls made simply to check on whether faxes or packages have arrived draw mixed responses at best. Some media pros see them as helpful reminders for keeping track of items on their plates. Others resent them as pestering. Your best bet is to send a quick e-mail, rather than call, to check on the delivery of faxes and packages.
If you use a gimmick, it better be sensational and the reason you’re using it must be clear. That said, the vast majority falls flat. Never assume that the media will get the point you’re trying to make. Most media people prefer conventional approaches. A reporter for a big-city newspaper told us that a woman who appeared outside his office clad in a bikini and blowing a trumpet provided a good laugh, but she didn’t get the publicity she wanted because she never mentioned why she was there.
14. Not Following Up on Requests
Everybody hates people who send press releases, call, or fax, but then don’t follow up with additional information when it is requested. If you say, or even imply, that you’re going to do something, do it and do it promptly. Otherwise, you will be considered unreliable and unprofessional. If you don’t respond promptly it may be too late. You can’t expect folks to wait for you.
15. Recycling Ideas
Don’t repeatedly send the same idea no matter how cleverly you repackage it. Writers, producers, and bloggers recognize and resent old dogs dolled up in new duds. “A lump of coal is still a lump of coal and no matter how you package it, it’s not a diamond,” a producer once explained.
Stay on the media’s good side. When you’re aware of what the media loves and what it hates, it will give you a great shot at staying in the media’s good graces. Feed the media what it wants because the more the media likes you, the more publicity it can generate for your product or service.
|About Rick Frishman
More Posts by Rick Frishman