To get publicity, make your message shine

"Boy, I'd love some publicity! How can I get the papers to run a story or get a television reporter to interview me?" Whether you are a budding entrepreneur introducing a new product, or an up-and-coming junior executive looking for some visibility, publicity can launch you or lynch you.

There is no doubt that the power of the media can be a tremendous tool for marketing a company, a product or yourself. If you are hungry for some media attention, but don't know how to get it- short of robbing a bank- here are some ideas to try.

The challenge is to have a story that a reporter really wants to hear and you want to tell. Although you may think your story is exciting, you will need to look at it from the reporter's viewpoint. Reporters want to know, "So, why is this news? Why should people care about this? What's so unique about it?"

First, target the kind of audience you want to reach and then choose the best media for the job. It's perfectly all right to contact the media of choice directly. Your local newspaper, television and radio talk shows are always looking for local stories, but they are inundated with requests, so yours must stand out.

If you don't have a particular story to tell, you can still build visibility for yourself and your company if you are interviewed as an expert on a particular topic. Pay attention to the reporters and the publications/TV stations that cover topics like yours. Watch the "angles" they take and choose a reporter you think would be a good match for you.

Send a letter introducing yourself, along with a Rolodex card with your name and area of expertise already filled out. Call a few days later and suggest some ideas to see if there is a spark of interest.

Now, what if you should actually hear those wonderful words, "I'd like to interview you for a story." Chances are, your mind will swim with quotable quotes and brilliant anecdotes- or your mind might go totally blank ...hardly the time to be giving an interview. Instead, set up the interview for a later time, so you can collect your thoughts.

Before the interview, choose one or two key points you want to emphasize. Don't expect to have every word you utter come out on the other end of the process. Remember that the reporter is looking for short, punchy bits and pieces to use as colorful examples.

Michael Rosenbaum, author of "How to Conquer Mediaphobia" (Management Review, December 1988), offers some tips that will help you give an interview you'll be proud of:

During the interview, everything you say should be considered "on the record." Don't say anything you wouldn't want to see in print or on the air. Pretend that your boss, co-workers, friends and neighbors are in the room during your interview, evaluating what you say.
Don't guess at answers if you really aren't sure. Offer to call back with the details. (If it's a television interview, don't feel pressured into saying something.) The reporter will appreciate it and you won't regret it later.

If you don't want to give an opinion or discuss a particular subject, just say so. Don't get sucked into a conversation you don't want to have.

While you want to be responsive to the reporter's questions, you must also be sure you get your story across. The reporter will appreciate it if you take the lead and redirect an interview that is leading nowhere.

Take your time. Speak in plain English and explain industry trends and background on important points, so the reporter can gain some perspective.

Tell the truth. Don't exaggerate or tell half-truths. It will be mighty embarrassing when you see it in print or hear yourself speak the words in front of hundreds of thousands of people a few days later.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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