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Six Steps to Free Publicity

Step Five: Talk Effectively With Reporters

Occasionally a magazine or newspaper will print your press release word for word. Other times they excerpt it or restate your information in their own style. More often, they call the contact number you provided to get additional quotes and details in order to write an article tailor made for their audience.

It's possible for you to blow the opportunity when a reporter calls. Follow these guidelines to maximize your chances of ending up in the story.

  1. Call the reporter back as soon as possible. Even more important, call him or her back, period! In researching my two most recent books, I was astounded at the number of businesspeople who didn't seem to understand what being mentioned in a book could do for them. Usually if I left two messages and they didn't call back, I crossed them off my list.

  2. If the reporter catches you in, however, you don't need to do the interview on the spot. It's reasonable to ask about the focus and scope of the story and set up another time to talk, so you can be thinking in the meanwhile about what to tell him or her.

  3. Know your agenda. Decide ahead of time what you most want to communicate and prepare your "talking points." Think also about any topics it might not be in your best interest to discuss. Either steer conversation away from them or politely end the interview if it turns out those are the reporter's primary interest.

  4. Be specific, anecdotal and colorful during the interview. The more quotable your remarks, the more likely you'll be quoted at length. Instead of "very profitable," say, "it took three hours every morning to count the checks." Instead of "I love it in New England," talk about how you enjoy the changing of the seasons and respect the neighbor who is rebuilding the stone wall between your property and his.

  5. Spell out names and explain any unusual terms you use. Even better, fax or send fact sheets or a bio for the reporter to use as reference. People often complain about reporters making mistakes, but you can prevent them by putting the appropriate facts literally in front of them.

  6. Don't ask to approve the story before it's published. At most, a responsible reporter may agree to read back to you portions of the article in which you're quoted to make sure it's accurate. And if mistakes or distortions do turn up in the story, thank the reporter anyway. Chances are the article will benefit you even with half a dozen bungles.

Copyright © 1994 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.

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